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A Study in Contemporary American Culture 


Foreword by 




Published, Januarj, 1929 
Second printing, February, 1929 
Third printing, March, 1929 
Fourth printing, June. 1929 
Fifth printing, July, 1929 
Sixth printing, October, 1929 
Seventh printing, February, 193® 
Eighth printing, April, 1931 
Ninth printing, February, 1932 
Tenth printing, July, 1934 



On every hand we hear the admonition, ‘‘The study of 
society must be made objective.” When one asks what is meant 
by this, he is referred to the natural and the biological sciences. 
But while the average man has little difficulty in comprehend- 
ing what is meant by objective in the study of electricity, bees, 
etc., he finds himself at a loss to visualize the objects of study 
in a social inquiry. There is nothing strange in this, because 
the professionals in social science are still far from confident 
that they have their hands upon the social reality. True, many 
attempts have been made to find the basic factors in society, 
but these factors have been sought, for the most part, in the 
laboratories of biology and psychology, which is not unlike 
groping behind the scenes and digging under the stage, dis- 
regarding the comedies, tragedies, and dramas in plain sight. 
On the other hand, experience with social phenomena is bring- 
ing us nearer and nearer to a realization that we must deal 
directly with life itself, that the realities of social science are 
what people do. Seemingly in full realization of this, the 
authors of this book have patiently observed an American 
community and sketched out for us, in the large, the whole 
round of its activities. No one had ever subjected an Amer- 
ican community to such a scrutiny; probably few would re- 
gard it as worth while. Rather have we been taught to set 
store by studies of the individual on one hand, and on the 
other, on the gathering of intimate statistics as to wages, liv- 
ing conditions, etc., for groups in our national population at 
large, as coal miners, teamsters, working girls, etc. The first 
of these seems to have been ordered upon the theory that mal- 
adjustments of individuals might be dealt with effectively if 
one knew a true sample of personal histories, and, in the main, 
studies of this kind have justified their making. The second 
seems to rest on the assumption that occupational groups pre- 
sent collective problems which can be dealt with on a national 
level, the maladjustments in this case arising in the failure 
of these groups to articulate properly with other groups. Here 



again insight has been achieved by statistical and analytical 
studies of wide scope. There remains, however, the obvious 
condition that the masses of individuals concerned live and 
function in communities, and that the picture will not be com- 
plete until these communities also are made objects of study. 
Whatever else a social phenomenon is, it is a community 
affair. The communities that collectively are American are also 
objective, they are realities, and if, as we are told, we can never 
know society until it is subjected to objective methods, then 
here is one place to begin. 

So this volume needs no defense; it is put forth for what it 
is, a pioneer attempt to deal with a sample American commu- 
nity after the manner of social anthropology. To most people, 
anthropology is a mass of curious information about savages, 
and this is so far true, in that most of its observations are on 
the less civilized. What is not realized is that anthropology 
deals with the communities of mankind, takes the community, 
or tribe, as the biological and social unit, and in its studies 
seeks to arrive at a perspective of society by comparing and 
contrasting these communities; and whatever may be the de- 
ficiencies of anthropology, it achieves a large measure of ob- 
jectivity, because anthropologists are by the nature of the case 
^‘outsiders.^' To study ourselves as through the eye of an 
outsider is the basic difficulty in social science, and may be in- 
surmountable, but the authors of this volume have made a 
serious attempt, by approaching an American community as an 
anthropologist does a primitive tribe. It is in this that the con- 
tribution lies, an experiment not only in method, but in a new 
field, the social anthropology of contemporary life. 

Finally, irrespective of the interests of social science, this 
volume is a contribution to history, not the usual kind of his- 
tory, but the kind that is coming more and more into demand, 
a cross-section of the activities of a community today as pro- 
jected from the background of yesterday, and the authors are 
to be commended for their foresight in revealing the Middle- 
town of 1890 as a genesis of the Middletown of today, not as 
its contrast. Every reader of these pages will realize more 
clearly than before the changes each decade has brought and 
the imperfect way in which our communities, of which this is 
a sample, have met the new conditions under which they must 
function, and incomplete though this record is, its perusal 



should enlighten the conscientious citizen and serve as a sug- 
gestion as to what information is needed by those who attempt 
to direct the affairs of an American town. 

Clark Wissler. 

American Museum 
of Natural History. 























I. Getting a Living 




















II. Making a Home 





















III. Training the Young 


WHp GO TO school? .... 













SCHOOL "'life’’ . . ... 







IV. Using Leisure 




V. Engaging in Religious Practices 


RIED ON 332 


RITES 344 


VI. Engaging in Community Activities 











index 535 


Behind the tightly filed record sheets, schedules, question- 
naires, tables, and maps from which this report has been assem- 
bled lie days and nights of patient observation, interviewing, 
reading old records, and checking and re-checking data on the 
part of the staff of field assistants : 

Dr. Faith Moors Williams 
Ivliss Dorothea Davis 
Miss Frances Flournoy 

Their tireless cooperation and ready ingenuity made the study 
possible. Dr. Williams, in particular, contributed to the planning 
of the study as it developed and supervised a large part of the 
statistical handling of the data as well as cooperating in the 
actual field work. She was directly responsible for collecting 
the data on cost of living and on the income of working class 

No one can be more aware than the writers of the short- 
comings of the report — ^the lack of adequate data at certain 
points and frequent unevenness of method. Furthermore, the 
field work was completed in 1925; the point of view of the 
investigators has developed during the subsequent years, and 
the treatment would be at many points more adequate were 
the investigation to be undertaken now. 

Invaluable counsel has been received from Professor Clark 
Wissler, Professor L. C. Marshall, Professor William F. Og- 
bum, Mr. Lawrence K. Frank, Dr. Joseph Chassell, and Dr. 
Gardner Murphy. None of the inadequacies of the study, how- 
ever, lies at their door. 

To the Institute of Social and Religious Research, which 
financed the investigation, and to its technical staff, which has 
been generous in criticism and suggestion, the investigation 
owes its support. 

A final acknowledgment should be made to the patient sub- 
ject of this picture, the people of Middletown, without whose 
generous friendship the marrow of the study would be lacking. 

R. S. L. 

H. M. L. 

New York,, June, 1^28 


Chapter I 


The aim of the field Investigation recorded in the following 
pages was to study synchronously the interwoven trends that 
are the life of a small American city. A typical city, strictly 
speaking, does not exist, but the city studied was selected as 
having many features common to a wide group of communities. 
Neither field work nor report has attempted to prove any 
thesis ; the aim has been, rather, to record observed phenomena, 
thereby raising questions and suggesting possible fresh points 
of departure in the study of group behavior. 

The stubborn resistance which ^'social problems’^ offer may 
be related in part to the common habit of piecemeal attack upon 
them. Students of human behavior are recognizing increas- 
ingly, however, that “the different aspects of civilization inter- 
lock and intertwine, presenting — in a word — a continuum.^’ ^ 
The present investigation, accordingly, set out to approach the 
life of the people in the city selected as a unit complex of inter- 
woven trends of behavior. 

Two major difficulties present themselves at the outset of 
such a total-situation study of a contemporary civilization: 
firsts the danger, never wholly avoidable, of not being com- 
pletely objective in viewing a culture in which one’s life is im- 
bedded, of falling into the old error of starting out, despite 
oneself, with emotionally weighted presuppositions and conse- 
quently failing ever to get outside the field one set out so 
bravely to objectify and study; and, second^ granted that no one 
phase of living can be adequately understood without a study 
of all the rest, how is one to set about the investigation of any- 
thing as multifarious as the gross-total thing that is Schenec- 
tady, Akron, Dallas, or Keokuk? 

A clew to the securing both of the maximum objectivity and 
of some kind of orderly procedure in such a maze may be found 
in the approach of the cultural anthropologist. There are, after 

1 A. A Goldenweiser, Early Civilization (New York; Knopf, 1919), p. 3I« 




all, despite infinite variations in detail, not so many major kinds 
of things that people do. Whether in an Arunta village in Cen- 
tral Australia or in our own seemingly intricate institutional 
life of corporations, dividends, coming-out parties, prayer meet- 
ings, freshmen, and Congress, human behavior appears to con- 
sist in variations upon a few major lines of activity : getting 
the material necessities for food, clothing, shelter; mating; in- 
itiating the young into the group habits of thought and be- 
havior; and so on. This study, accordingly, proceeds on the 
assumption that all the things people do in this American city 
may be viewed as falling under one or another of the following 
six main-trunk activities: 

Getting a living. 

Making a home. 

Training the young. 

Using leisure in various forms of play, art, and so on. 

Engaging in religious practices. 

Engaging in community activities. 

This particular grouping of activities is used with no idea 
of its exclusive merit but simply as a methodological expedient.^ 
By viewing the institutional life of this city as simply the form 
which human behavior under this particular set of conditions 
has come to assume, it is hoped that the study has been lifted on 
to an impersonal plane that will save it from the otherwise 
inevitable charge at certain points of seeming to deal in person- 
alities or to criticize the local life. For, after all, having one’s 
accustomed ways scrutinized by an outsider may be discon- 
certing at best. Like Aunt Polly in Donald Ogden Stewart’s 
Aunt Polly^s Story of Mankind, many of us are prone to view 
the process of evolution as the ascent from the nasty amoeba 
to Uncle Frederick triumphantly standing at the top of the 
long and tortuous course in a Prince Albert with one gloved 
hand resting upon the First National Bank and the other upon 

2 W. H. R. Rivers in his Social Organisation (New York; Knopf, 1924) 
sets forth a sixfold classification of social groupings identical with the six 
types of activity employed here. Clark Wissler presents a ninefold culture 
scheme, in Man and Culture (New York; Crowell, 1923), Chs. V and XII. 
Frederick J. Teggart criticizes Wissler’s use of a universal culture pattern, 
but himself implicitly recognizes certain activities as common to men 
everywhere, in Theory of History (New Haven; Yale University Press, 
1925), P. 171. 



the Presb^arrian church. To many of us who might be quite 
willing to ^scuss dispassionately the quaintly patterned ways 
of behaving that make up the customs of uncivilized peoples, it 
is distinctly distasteful to turn with equal candor to the life of 
which we are a local ornament. Yet nothing can be more en- 
lightening than to gain precisely that degree of objectivity and 
perspective with which we view “savage’' peoples. Even though 
such a venture in contemporary anthropology may be somewhat 
hazy and distorted, the very trial may yield a degree of detach- 
ment indispensable for clearer vision. 

It is a commonplace to say that an outstanding characteristic 
of the ways of living of any people at any given time is that 
they are in process of change, the rate and direction of change 
depending upon proximity to strong centers of cultural diffu- 
sion, the appearance of new inventions, migration, and other 
factors which alter the process. We are coming to realize, more- 
over, that we today are probably living in one of the eras of 
greatest rapidity of change in the history of human institutions. 
New tools and techniques are being developed with stupendous 
celerity, while in the wake of these technical developments in- 
creasingly frequent and strong culture waves sweep over us 
from without, drenching us with the material and non-material 
habits of other centers. In the face of such a situation it would 
be a serious defect to omit this developmental aspect from a 
study of contemporary life.® 

The further device has, therefore, been adopted in this inves- 
tigation, wherever the data available permitted, of using as a 
groundwork for the observed behavior of today the recon- 
structed and in so far as possible equally objectively observed 
behavior of 1890. The year 1890 was selected as the base-line 
against which to project the culture of today because of greater 
availability of data from that year onward and because not until 
the end of 1886 was natural gas struck in the city imder 
study and the boom begun which was to transform the placid 
county-seat during the nineties into a manufacturing city. This 
narrow strip of thirty-five years comprehends for hundreds of 

5 Cf. Rivers’ closing sentence in The History of Melanesian Society 
{Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 1914) : “It is because we can only 
hope to understand the present of any society through a knowledge of its 
past that such historical studies as those of which this book is an example 
are necessary steps toward the construction of a science of social psy- 



American communities the industrial revolution that has de- 
scended upon villages and towns, metamorphosing them into a 
thing of Rotary Clubs, central trade councils, and Chamber of 
Commerce contests for ^'bigger and better’^ cities. 

Had time and available funds permitted, it would obviously 
have been desirable to plot more points in observed trends be- 
tween 1890 and the present. But the procedure followed enables 
us to view the city of today against the background of the city 
of a generation ago out of which it has grown and by which it 
is conditioned, to see the present situation as the most recent 
point in a moving trend. 

To sum up, then: the following pages aim to present a dy- 
namic, functional ^ study of the contemporary life of this spe- 
cific American community in the light of the trends of chang- 
ing behavior observable in it during the last thirty-five years. 

So comprehensive an approach necessarily involves the use 
of data of widely varying degrees of overtness and statistical 
adequacy. Some types of behavior in the city studied lie open 
to observation over the whole period since 1890; in other cases 
only slight wisps of evidence are obtainable. Much folk talk, for 
instance — ^the rattle of conversation that goes on around a 
luncheon table, on street corners, or while waiting for a basket 
ball game to commence — ^is here presented, not because it offers 
scientifically valid evidence, but because it affords indispensable 
insights into the moods and habits of thought of the city. In 
the attempt to combine these various types of data into a total- 
situation picture, omissions and faults in proportion will appear. 
But two saving facts must be borne in mind : no effort is being 
made to prove any thesis with the data presented, and every 
effort is made throughout to warn where the ice is thin. 

Since the field work aimed at the integration of diverse 
regions of behavior rather than at the discovery of new ma- 
terial in a narrowly isolated field, it will be easy to say of much 
of the specific data presented, "We knew that already.'^ Under- 
lying the study, however, is the assumption that by the presenta- 
tion of these phenomena, familiar though some of them may 
be, in their inter-relatedness in a specific situation, fresh light 
may be thrown upon old problems and so give rise to furthet^ 

* “Function” as here used denotes a major life-activity or something con- 
tributing to the performance of a major life-activity 

Chapter II 


The city will be called Middletown. A community as small as 
thirty-odd thousand affords at best about as much privacy as 
Irvin Cobb's celebrated goldfish enjoyed, and it has not seemed 
desirable to increase this high visibility in the discussion of 
local conditions by singling out the city by its actual name. 

There were no ulterior motives in the selection of Middle- 
town. It was not consulted about the project, and no organiza- 
tion or person in the city contributed anything to the cost of 
the investigation- Two main considerations guided the selection 
of a location for the study: (i) that the city be as representa- 
tive as possible of contemporary American life, and (2) that 
it be at the same time compact and homogeneous enough to be 
manageable in such a total-situation study. 

In line with the first of these considerations the following 
characteristics were considered desirable: (i) A temperate 
climate.^ (2) A sufficiently rapid rate of growth to insure the 
presence of a plentiful assortment of the growing pains accom- 
panying contemporary social change. ( 3 ) An industrial culture 
with modern high-speed machine production. (4) The absence 
of dominance of the city's industry by a single plant, i.e., not a 
one-industry town. (5) A substantial local artistic life to bal- 
ance its industrial activity; also a largely self-contained artistic 
life, e.g., not that of a college town in which the college imports 
the community's music and lectures. (6) The absence of any 
outstanding peculiarities or acute local problems which would 
mark it off from the mid-channel sort of American community. 
After further consideration, a seventh qualification was added : 
the city should, if possible, be in that common-denominator of 

^ The relation of climate to the elaborate equilibrium of activities that 
make up living is suggested by the late James J. Hill’s motto to which he 
is said absolutely to have adhered: ‘‘You can’t interest me in any proposi- 
tion in any place where it doesn’t snow,” or, more picturesquely, “No man 
on whom the snow does not fall ever amounts to a tinker’s dam.” (Quoted 
in J. Russell Smith’s North America, New York; Harcourt, Brace and 
Company, 1925, p. 8.) 




America, the Middle West.^ Two streams of colonists met in 
this middle region of the United States: ^‘The Yankees from 
New England and New York came by way of the Erie Canal 
into northern Ohio. . . . The southern stream of colonists, 
having passed through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky, 
went down the Ohio River.” ® With the first of these came 
also a foreign-bom stock, largely from Great Britain, Ireland, 
and Germany. 

In order to secure a certain amount of compactness and 
homogeneity, the following characteristics were sought: (i) A 
city of the 25,000-50,000 group. This meant selection from 
among a possible 143 cities, according to the 1920 Census. A 
city of this size, it was felt, would be large enough to have put 
on long trousers and to take itself seriously, and yet small 
enough to be studied from many aspects as a unit. (2) A city as 
nearly self-contained as is possible in this era of rapid and 
pervasive inter-communication, not a satellite city. (3) A small 
Negro and foreign-born population. In a difficult study of this 
sort it seemed a distinct advantage to deal with a homogeneous, 
native-born population, even though such a population is un- 
usual in an American industrial city. Thus, instead of being 
forced to handle two major variables, racial change and cul- 
tural change, the field staff was enabled to concentrate upon 
cultural change. The study thus became one of the interplay of 
a relatively constant native American stock and its changing 
environment. As such it may possibly afford a base-line group 
against which the process of social change in the type of com- 
munity that includes different racial backgrounds may be 
studied by future workers. 

Middletown, selected in the light of these considerations 
from a number of cities visited, is in the East-North-Central 
group of states that includes Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, 
and Wisconsin. The mean annual temperature is 50.8^ F. The 
highest recorded temperature is 102° F. in July and the lowest 

2 “The ‘Middle West/ the prairie country, has been the center of active 
social philanthropies and political progressivism. It has formed the solid 
element in our diffuse national life and heterogeneous populations, ... It 
has been the middle in every sense of the word and in every movement. 
Like every mean, it has held things together and given unity and stability 
of movement” John Dewey, “The American Intellectual Frontier” {The 
New Republic, May 10, 1922). 

^ Smith, op. cit, pp. 2^-7. 



— 24° F. in Januar}", but such extremes are ordinarily of short 
duration, and weather below zero is extremely rare. The city 
was in 1885 an agricultural county-seat of some 6,000 persons; 
by 1890 the population had passed 11,000, and in 1920 it had 
topped 35,000. This growth has accompanied its evolution into 
an aggressive industrial city. There is no single controlling 
industrial plant; three plants on June 30, 1923, had between 
1,000 and 2,000 on the payroll, and eight others from 300 to 
1,000; glass, metal, and automobile industries predominate. 
The census of 1890 showed slightly less than 5 per cent, of the 
city’s population to be foreign-bom ^ and less than 4 per cent 
Negroes, as against approximately 2 per cent, foreign-born in 
1920 and nearly 6 per cent. Negroes; over 81 per cent, of the 
population In 1890 and nearly 85 per cent, in 1920 was native 
white of native parentage. In the main this study confines itself 
to the white population and more particularly to the native 
whites, who compose 92 per cent, of the total population. 

The nearest big city, a city under 350,000, is sixty miles 
away, nearly a two-hour trip by train, with no through hard- 
surface road for motoring at the time the study was made. It is 
a long half-day train trip to a larger city. Since the eighties 
Middletown has been known all over the state as '^a good music 
town.” Its civic and women’s clubs are strong, and practically 
none of the local artistic life was in 1924 in any way traceable 
to the, until then, weak normal school on the outskirts. 

The very middle-of-the-road quality about Middletown 
would have made it unsuitable for a different kind of investi- 
gation. Had this study sought simply to observe the institu- 
tion of the home under extreme urban conditions, the recrea- 
tional life of industrial workers, or any one of dozens of other 
special ^^social problems,” a far more spectacular city than 
Middletown might readily have been found. But although it 
was its characteristic rather than its exceptional features which 
led to the selection of Middletown, no claim is made that it is 
a "'typical” city, and the findings of this study can, naturally, 
only with caution be applied to other cities or to American life 
in general. 

“^The census of 1890 shows 62.1 per cent, of the foreign-born in the 
state to have been of German-speaking stock and 24.5 British and Irish. 
Belgian glass workers were prominent among Middletown^s foreign-born 
population in the nineties. 

Chapter III 


Two major experiences in Middletown antedate 1890, the 
date taken as the horizon of this study: the pioneer life of the 
earlier part of the century, and the gas boom of the end of the 
eighties which ushered in Middletown’s industrial revolution. 
Both are within the memory of men who still walk the streets 
of the city. 

The first permanent settlement in this county occurred in 
1820, and county government was granted in 1827. The mem- 
ory of one of the oldest citizens, a leading local physician 
throughout the nineties, reaches back to the eighteen-forties. 
Within the lifetime of this one man local transportation has 
changed from virtually the '^hoof and saiF^ methods in use in 
the time of Homer ; grain has ceased to be cut in the state by 
thrusting the sickle into the ripened grain as in the days of Ruth 
and threshing done by trampling out by horses on the threshing- 
floor or by flail ; getting a living and making a home have ceased 
to be conducted under one roof by the majority of the Amer- 
ican people ; education has ceased to be a luxury accessible only 
to the few; in his own field of medicine the X-ray, anaesthetics, 
asepsis, and other developments have tended to make the heal- 
ing art a science ; electricity, the telephone, telegraph, and radio 
have appeared; and the theory of evolution has shaken the 
theological cosmogony that had reigned for centuries.^ 

This local physician whose lifetime so nearly spans that of 

1 That this stupendous change within a single lifetime was a phenomenon 
of the whole country, not merely of a backwoods section, is indicated by 
the recollections of a man born a year earlier than this physician, under the 
shadow of Boston State House : Henry Adams writes, . . on looking back, 
fifty years later, at his own figure in 1854, and pondering on the needs of 
the twentieth century, he wondered whether, on the whole, the boy of 
1854 stood nearer to the thought of 1904, or to that of the year i . . . 
—in essentials like religion, ethics, philosophy; in history, literature, art; 
in the concepts of all science, except perhaps mathematics, the American 
boy of 1854 stood nearer the year i than to the year 1900.” Education of 
Henry Adams (Boston; Houghton Mifflin, 1018), p. 53. 




Middletown, the tenth of a family of eleven, was named, with 
the characteristic political iervor of the time, General William 

Harrison K The log farmhouse of his father was ceiled 

inside without plaster, the walls bare save for three prized pic- 
tures of Washington, Jackson, and Clay. All meals were cooked 
before the great kitchen fireplace, corn pones and “cracklings’" 
and bread being baked in the glare of a large curved reflector 
set before the open fire. At night the rooms were lighted by 
the open fire and by tallow dips; there was great excitement 
later when the first candle mold appeared in the neighborhood. 
Standard time was unknown ; few owned watches, and sun time 
was good enough during the day, while early and late candle 
lighting served to distinguish the periods at night. When the 
fire went out on the family hearth the boy ran to a neighbor’s 
to bring home fire between two boards ; it was not until later 
that the first box of little sticks tipped with sulphur startled the 

The homely wisdom of pioneer life prescribed that children 
be passed through a hole in the trunk of a hollow tree to cure 
“short growth”; hogs must be slaughtered at certain times of 
the moon or the bacon would shrink ; babies must be weaned at 
certain times of the zodiac ; the “madstone,” “a small bone from 
the heart of a deer,” was a valuable antidote for hydrophobia 
or snake-bite ; certain persons “blew the fire out of a bum,” ar- 
rested hemorrhage or cured erysipelas by uttering mysterious 
charms ; a pan of water under the bed was used to check night 
sweats; bleeding was the sovereign remedy for fits, loss of 
consciousness, fever, and many other ills; and “in emptive 
fevers, especially measles, where the eruption was delayed, a tea 
made of sheep’s dung, popularly known as ‘nanny tea,’ was a 
household remedy.” 

Social calls were unknown, but all-day visits were the rale, a 
family going to visit either by horseback, the children seated 
behind the grown-ups, or in chairs set in the springless farm 

2 The boy grew tip not in the county in which Middletown is situated 
but in a near-by county. His boyhood environment described here was not 
that of the rude pioneer villages of the state but of the open country; but 
the facts ^at life in the diminutive Middletown of 1840 did not differ 
markedly in fundamentals from that of the open country around it and 
that some people in Middletown today grew up under open country condi- 
tions not unlike those described are the reasons for the inclusion of this 
material here. 



wagon. Social intercourse performed a highly important serv- 
ice; there were no daily papers in the region, and much news 
traveled by word of mouth. Nobody came to the home around 
mealtime who was not urged to take his place at the table 
— ^preachers being particularly welcome. Men would talk to- 
gether for hours on the Providential portent of the great Comet 
of 1843, or of the time ten years before when the ‘'stars fell.’' 
Men and women went miles and spent days in order to hear 
champions argue disputed political or religious points. People 
*‘got religion’’ and were ‘‘awakened to sin” at camp meetings 
under the vivid exhortation of baptizing preachers. The 
“Word” wove its influence closely about everyday acts. 

Forty years later, in 1885, before gas and wealth spouted 
from the earth, bringing in their wake a helter-skelter indus- 
trial development, Middletown, a placid county-seat of some 
6,000 souls, still retained some of the simplicity of this early 
pioneer life. “On the streets ... on fair days lawyers, doc- 
tors, the officials of the county courts, and the merchants 
walked about in their shirt sleeves. The house painter went 
along with his ladder on his shoulder. In the stillness there 
could be heard the hammers of the carpenters building a new 
house for the son of a merchant who had married the daugh- 
ter of a blacksmith.” ® Men in their prime who had grown up 
under pioneer conditions now controlled the affairs of Middle- 
town. They were occupied with such momentous matters as 
offering “$200 for the scalp or body of any person in the city 
caught setting fire to the property of another,” or passing reg- 
ulations in response to complaints about neighborhood cows 
running through the streets and destroying lawns, or with 
badly bungling the job of laying the first town sewer. 

The thin edge of industry was beginning to appear, though 
few people thought of the place then as anything but an agri- 
cultural county-seat: a bagging plant employed from a hun- 
dred to a hundred and fifty people, making bags from the flax 
grown in the surrounding countryside ; a clay tile yard employed 
some fifteen; a roller-skate “company” in an old barn up an 
alley, perhaps eight; a feather-duster “factory,” five or six; a 
small foundry, half a dozen ; and a planing mill and two flour 

®From Sherwood Anderson’s description of the even tenor of life in these 
Middletowns of the ’8o’s in his Poor White, 



mills, a few more. It was still for Middletown the age of 
wood, and a new industry meant a hardwood skewer shop, a 
barrel-heading shop, or a small wooden pump works. 

Such modest ventures in manufacturing as the community 
exhibited were the tentative responses of small local capital to 
the thing that was happening to the whole Middle West. The 
Federal Census reveals a steady movement westward of the cen- 
ter of manufacturing; in 1880 it was still in Pennsylvania, but 
by 1890 it had pushed on until it was eight and one-half miles 
west of Canton, Ohio. Dry-goods clerks were beginning to 
spend their evenings perfecting little models of washing-ma- 
. chines, mechanical hair-clippers, can-openers, various power- 
V driven devices. The proprietor of a small Middletown restaurant 
Xwho led a town band in the evening and ‘Vas always neglecting 
j business to tinker around at things” saw a crude cash-register 
N in a saloon in a neighboring city while on a trip there with his 
^and, conceived the idea of a self -adding register, and set to 
j^work in the hope of making his fortune. The annual total of 
^patents registered in Washington, which had remained practi- 
®^cally constant during the decade of the seventies, jumped in 
1890 to roughly double the 1880 figure. 

In the state in which Middletown is located, the number of 
wage-earners increased from 69,508 in 1880 to 110,590 in 
18^, and by 1900 was to total 155,956. The capital invested 
in manufacturing plants in the state doubled between 1880 and 
1890 and was almost to double again by 1900. 

(P The quiet life of the town drowsing about its courthouse 
^square with its wooden pump — ^and iron dippers, punctually 
^renewed every Fourth of July — ^was beginning to stir to these 
jOutside influences. A small Business and Manufacturing Asso- 
<Jk:iation was formed about 1886 for ‘'the promotion of any and 
all undertakings calculated to advance the interests, improve- 
ments and general welfare of the city.” 

And then in the fall of ’86 came gas. 

In 1876 a company boring for coal twelve miles north of 
^the town had plugged up the hole and abandoned the project 
jsl^after boring 600 feet: all they “struck” was a foul odor and 
^a roaring sound deep in the bowels of the earth, and rumor 
C^had it that they had invaded “his Satanic Majesty’s domain.” 
Nine years later, when natural gas was discovered at other 
points in the Middle West, the incident of the plugged-up hole 



north of town was recalled. In October, 1886, there was 
great local excitement over the plans “to bore for gas or oil or 
both.” In November we read, “The persons employed to bore 
for oil have this morning ‘struck’ gas, and everybody is on the 
way to see for themselves.” The roar of the escaping gas 
is said to have been audible for two miles and the flame when 
it was “lit up” could be seen in Middletown a dozen miles 

The boom was on. 

The laying of a pipe line to bring the gas into the county-seat 
beg^ immediately, and new wells were sunk. By the following 
April a local well was producing 5,000,000 feet daily. New 
wells multiplied on every hand. In January, 1891, the local 
pa^r exclaimed, “We have a new gas well which really does 
eclipse all others in the [gas] belt. Daily output is nearly 
15,000,000 feet, and they worked over thirty hours trying to 
anchor the flow.” No wonder the little town went wild ! 

Meanwhile, from the spring of ’87 on through ’91 and ’92, 
the “boomers” were arriving : 

“Four vestibule, one dining-room and one baggage special train 
from Buffalo with 134 of its capitalists came in last night to see 
for themselves what gas can do and are much pleased. . . . Taken 
in carriages to all the factories and sites. . . . Grand manufactur- 
ing exhibition at the Rink, and a beautiful display of four open 
street cars.” “A trainload of 1,200 from Cincinnati.” “Quite a 
number of New York City capitalists and newspaper men came in 

from the East last night; three and one-half pages of the 

Hotel_ register were covered with their signatures.” “American 
Association for the Advancement of Science visits the city and 
witnesses the wonders of natural gas; 300 scientists and men of 
affairs in .the party.” 

Real estate was being turned over with dizzy rapidity. In 
1888 a man tried to buy an eight-acre chunk of farm land on 
the outskirts of town but, shying at the price of $r,6oo, took 
only a. sixty-day option. Before the sixty-day option expired 
the eight acres changed hands five times, the final price being 
$3,200. _ 

Nothing short of the sky seemed an adequate limit to the cit- 
izens of Middletown. A contemporary parody runs — 



“Tell me not in mournful numbers 
That the town is full of gloom, 

For the man^s a crank who slumbers 
In these bursting days of boom/’ 

Optimists predicted a population of 50,000 in five years and 
even the pessimists allowed only ten years. The general senti^ 
ment was that the gas supply was inexhaustible. Some called 
it ''The City of Eternal Gas.” The Introduction to the Middle- 
town City Directory announced confidently, "Every forty 
acres will supply a gas well, and 576 wells can be drilled within 
. . . [the] corporate limits and suburbs.” "The mathematical 
deduction would be,” chanted a "boom book,” "that the continu- 
ance of this supply would be, at least, one hundred times as 
long as at Pittsburgh, which would be 700 years.” Great flam- 
beaus burned recklessly day and night in the streets and at the 
wells. When the pipe lines were laid, consumers were charged 
by the fixture rather than by any system of exact measure- 
ment, It was cheaper to leave the gas on and to throw open 
doors and windows than to expend a match in relighting it.^ 

With the boomers came new industries lured by free fuel 
and free building sites. The earlier Business and Manufactur- 
ing Association awakened to new life in February, 1887, the 
"Board of Trade,” and concerted efforts were made to "^ell the 
town” to industrial capital. Glass came first. Next were the 
iron mills — a bridge company, a nail works. A diary for 1888-9 
buzzes with rumors of the coming of these new plants ; 

"Report that another glass factory is coming immediately.” 
"Work progressing on the pulp mill and rubber factory.” "A 

nail works wants to come here from “Considerable talk 

about a Palace Stock Car Factory.” "A boot and shoe factory is 
coming; building commenced this afternoon.’' 

‘^“For the past six months” (the latter half of 1887), according to the 
State Geologist, ‘‘there has been an average waste of about 100,000,000 
cubic feet of gas per day in [this state]. This is worth $10,000. . . . The 
volume of gas wasted in the last six months is . . worth $1,500,000.” 
(Sixteenth Annual Report of the [State] Department of Geology and 
Natural History: 1888, p. 202.) 

The value of the natural gas produced (not including that wasted) in 
the state in 1886 was $300,000; it doubled in ’87 and again in ’88; by 1890 
it was two and one-third million dollars, in ’95 passed five million, and in 
1900 reached its high point of seven and one-quarter millions. 



By the summer of 1890 the local paper speaks of the thriv- 
ing little "^gasopolis*^ with pardonable pride : 

'"Two and one-half years ago when natural gas was first dis- 
covered [Middletown] was a county-seat of 7,000 inhabitants. 
. . . It has grown since that time to a busy manufacturing city of 

12.000. . . . Over forty factories have located here during that 

time. . . . There has been $1,500,000 invested in Middletown 
manufacturing enterprises employing 3,000 men. . . . Over thirty 
gas wells have been drilled in and around the city, every one of 
which is good. . . ® 

The first boom of '87 and' ’88 was the spontaneous, unor- 
ganized rush to a new El Dorado. When the earlier boom was 
renewed in ’91 it was engineered by the Eastern land syndi- 
cate and carried forward by the local boosters’ association, the 
Citizens’ Enterprise Company, organized in August, 1891. The 
last-named organization raised a $200,000 fund to lure new in- 
dustries with free sites and capital.® 

Several years later, as abruptly as it had come, the gas de- 
parted. By the turn of the century or shortly thereafter, nat- 
ural gas for manufacturing purposes was virtually a thing of 
the past in Middletown. But the city had grown by then to 

20.000, and, while industry after industry moved away, a sub- 
stantial foundation had been laid for the industrial life of the 
city of today. 

And yet it is easy, peering back at the little city of 1890 
through the spectacles of the present, to see in the dust and 
clatter of its new industrialism a developed industrial culture 
that did not exist. Crop reports were still printed on the front 
page of the leading paper in 1890, and the paper carried a daily 

5 These figures should all be deflated a little, for among the “over forty 
factories” were many that were operating on a “shoe-string’* or less, and 
plant after plant failed to weather the first year. The air was full of new 
inventions, and these infant industries plunged courageously into manu- 
facturing anything and everything for a frequently, as yet, vague market. 
Thus one local industry manufactured a wooden clothes washing-machine, a 
fire-kindler proclaimed “surely one of the grandest inventions of the age,” 
and a patent can-opener. 

® Bidding was keen for new industries among cities in the gas belt. In 
return for specific aid from local capital, the new company wpuld fre- 
quently pledge itself to grow at a desirable rate, e.g., a Brass and Novelty 
Company from Rochester, N. Y., contracted “to employ fifty men the first 
six months, one hundred at the end of the first year, and 150 at the end 
of the second year.’* 



column of agricultural suggestions headed “Farm and Gar' 
den.” Local retail stores were overgrown country stores swag- 
gering under such names as “The Temple of Economy” and 
“The Beehive Bazaar.” The young Goliath, Industry, was still 
a neighborly sort of fellow. The agricultural predominance in 
the county-seat was gone, but the diffusion of the new indus- 
trial type of culture was as yet largely superficial — only skin- 

This, then, suggests the background of the city which is the 
subject of this field investigation. 


Chapter IV 


A stranger unfamiliar with the ways of IMiddletown, 
dropped down into the city, as w^as the field staff in January, 
1924, would be a lonely person. He would find people intently 
engaged day after day in some largely routinized, specialized 
occupation. Only the infants, the totteringly old, and a fringe 
of women would seem to be available to answer his endless 

In a word — 

43 people out of every 100 in Middletown are primarily occu- 
pied with getting the living of the entire group. 

23 of every 100 are engaged in making the homes of the bulk 
of the city. 

19 of every 100 are recerving day after day the training re- 
quired of the young, 

15 of every 100, the remainder, are chiefly those under six 
years, and the very old. 

Not only do those engaged in getting the living of the group 
predominate numerically, but as the study progressed it became 
more and more apparent that the money medium of exchange 
and the cluster of activities associated with its acquisition dras- 
tically condition the other activities of the people. Rivers begins 
his study of the Todas with an account of the ritual of the buf- 
falo dairy, because ""the ideas borrowed from the ritual of the 
dairy so pervade the whole of Toda ceremonial.” ^ A similar 
situation leads to the treatment of the activities of Middletown 
concerned with getting a living first among the six groups of 
activities to be described. The extent of the dominance of this 
sector in the lives of the people will appear as the study pro- 

1 W. H. R. Rivers, The Todas (New York; Macmillian, 1906), p. 16, also 
p. 38 : ^‘The lives of the people are largely devoted to their buffaloes. . . . 
The ordinary operations of the dairy have become a religious ritual and 
ceremonies of a religious character accompany nearly every important in- 
cident in the lives of the buffaloes.” 




At first glance it is difficult to see any semblance of pattern in 
the workaday life of a community exhibiting a crazy-quilt 
array of nearly four hundred ways of getting its living — such 
diverse things as being abstractors, accountants, auditors, bank 
cashiers, bank tellers, bookkeepers, cashiers, checkers, core 
makers, crane operators, craters, crushers, cupola tenders, dye- 
workers, efficiency engineers, electricians, electrical engineers, 
embalmers, entomologists, estimating engineers, illuminating 
engineers, linotypists, mechanical engineers, metallurgists, me- 
teorologists, riggers, riveters, rivet makers, and so on in- 
definitely. On closer scrutiny, however, this welter may be re- 
solved into two kinds of activities. The people who engage in 
them will be referred to throughout the report as the Working 
Qass and the Business Class.^ Members of the first group, by 
and large, address their activities in getting their living pri- 
marily to things, utilizing material tools in the making of things 
and the performance of services, while the members of the 
second group address their activities predominantly tdt people 
in the selling or promotion of things, services, and ideas. This 
second group supplies to Middletown the multitude of non-ma- 
terial institutional activities such as ‘‘credit,” “legal contract,” 
“education,” “sale for a price,” “management,” and “city gov- 
ernment” by which Middletown people negotiate with each 
other in converting the narrowly specialized product of their 
workaday lives into “a comfortable evening at home,” “a Sun- 
day afternoon out in the car,” “fire protection,” “a new go- 
cart for the baby,” and all the other things that constitute living 
in Middletown. If the Federal Census distribution of those 
gainfully employed in Middletown in 1920 is reclassified ac- 
cording to this grouping we find that there are two and one-half 
times as many in the working class as in the business class — 
seventy-one in each 100 as against twenty-nine.® 

2 Other terms which might he utilized to differentiate these two groups by 
their vocational activities are : people who address their activities to 
things and people who address their activities to persons; those who work 
with their hands and those who work with their tonnes ; those who make 
things and those who sell or promote things and ideas ; those who use 
material tools and those who use various non-material institutional devices. 

^ See Table I for the basis of this distribution. 

Four of the twenty-nine in each 100 grouped with the business class belong 
to a group of users of highly-skilled techniques — ^architects, surgeons, 
chemists, and so on — ^who, though addressing their activities in getting 
a living more to things than to people, are not here grouped with the 


No such classification is entirely satisfactory. The aerial 
photographer inevitably sacrifices minor contours as he ascends 
high enough to view a total terrain. Within these two major 
groups there is an infinite number of gradations — all the way 
from the roughest day laborer to the foreman, the foundry 
molder, and the linot^^pe operator in the one group, and from 
the retail clerk and cashier lo the factory owner and profes- 
sional man in the other. There is naturally, too, a twilight belt 
in which some members of the two groups overlap or merge. 

W^ere a minute structural diagram the aim of this study, it 
would be necessary to decipher in much greater detail the multi- 
tude of overlapping groupings observable in Middletown. Since 
what is sought, however, is an understanding of the major 
functional characteristics of this changing culture, it is im- 
portant that significant outlines be not lost in detail, and the 
groups in the city which exhibit the dominant characteristics 
most clearly must, therefore, form the foci of the report. While 
an effort will be made to make clear at certain points variant 
behavior within these two groups, it is after all this division into 
working class and business class that constitutes the outstand- 
ing cleavage in Middletown. The mere fact of being born upon 
one or the other side of the watershed roughly formed by these 

working class because all their other activities would place them with the 
business class. It should be borne in mind throughout that the term busi- 
ness class, as here used, includes these and other professional workers. 
Since it is the business interests of the city that dominate and give their 
tone, in the main, to the lawyer, chemist, architect, engineer, teacher, and 
even to some extent preacher and doctor, such a grouping by and large 
accurately represents the facts. 

Careful consideration was given to the applicability for the purposes of 
this study of the conventional tripartite division into Lower Class, Middle 
Class, and Upper Class. This was rejected, however, for the following 
reasons: (i) Since the dominance of the local getting-a-living ac^vities 
impresses upon the ^oup a pattern of social stratification based primarily 
upon vocational activity, it seemed advisable to utilize terms that hold 
this vocational cleavage to the fore. ( 2 ) In so far as the traditional three- 
fold classification might be applied to Middletown today, the city would 
have to be regarded as having only a lower and a middle class ; eight or nine 
households might conceivably be considered as an upper class, but these 
families are not a group apart but are merged in the life of the mass of 
businessfolk. R. H. Gretton, while pointing out the difficulty of separating 
out any group in present-day industrial society as “Middle Class, “ defines it 
as precisely that group here called the business class: “The Middle Class 
is that portion of the community to which money is the primary condition 
and the primary instrument of life. , . . Tt . . . includes^ merchant and 
capitalist manufacturer . . . [and the] professional class.^^ The English 
Middle Class (London; Bell^ I9l7)i PP- 



two groups is the most significant single cultural factor Ending 
to^uence what one does all day long throughout ones Me 
Xm one marries ; when one gets up m the 

one belongs to the Holy Roller or Pres > j-^p-hter makes 
drives a Ford or a Buick; whether or not one s daughter makes 

^rSiable high school Violet Club; ^ 

the Sew We Do Club or with the Art Students ^eague, 
whether one belongs to the Odd Fellows or to the Masomc 
Shrine • whether one sits about evenings with one s necWie on , 
S onYndefinitely throughcut the daily comtngs and goings 
of a Middletown man, woman, or child. 

Wherever throughout the report either ^ ° de M 

gr«p within the city is referred to as a nn.t 
finr^<;ion must be regarded as simply a shorthand s^bol. Any 
diLissions of characteristics of groups are of 
imations only and the fact that the behavior of individuals is 
the basis of social behavior must never be lost sight of. 

Chapter V 

WHO EARN Middletown’s living? 

Who are the forty-three people out of ever>^ loo in Middle- 
town who specialize day after day in getting its living? 

Four out of five of them are males. Today as in 1890 a 
healthy adult male, whether married or unmarried, loses caste 
sharply by not engaging with the rest of the group in the tra- 
ditional male activity of getting a living. 

Among the women, however, no such constancy of tradition 
is apparent, “What has become of the useful maiden aunt?’^ 
asks a current newspaper advertisement of a women’s maga- 
zine, showing a picture of a woman in her late thirties dressed 
in sober black, and bearing the date “Anno Domini 1900/’ “She 
isn’t darning anybody’s stockings,” it adds succinctly, “not even 
her own. She is a draftsman or an author, a photographer or a 
real estate agent. . . . She is the new phenomenon in every- 
day life.” Thirty-five years ago when the daughter of a promi- 
nent family became the first woman court reporter in the city, 
an old friend of her mother’s protested that such work would 
“un-sex” her. The State Factory Inspector in 1900 shook his 
head over the spectacle of the new influx of women into in- 
dustry : 

“It is a sad comment on our civilization when young women pre- 
fer to be employed where they are compelled to mingle with par- 
tially clad men, doing the work of men and boys, for little more 
than they would receive for doing the work usually allotted to 
women in the home. . , . [One fears] the loss of all maidenly 
modesty and those qualities which are so highly prized by the true 
man. . . 

Throughout the entire state one woman in every ten, ten 
years old and over, was classified by the 1890 Census as oc- 
cupied at getting a living, as over against one In six in 1920, 

'^Eighth Biennial Report of [the Stated Dept of Statistics, 1899-1900, 
pp. 212-13. 




while at the latter date nearly one in four in Middletown was 
so occupied. This fact, coupled with the recent rise of two busi- 
ness women’s luncheon clubs, one of them with the brisk motto, 
“Better business women for a better business world,” would 
surprise the Middletown editor who so confidently proclaimed 
in 1891 that “it is true that qualities inherent in the nature of 
women impede their progress as wage-earners. . . . Women 
are uniformly timid and are under a disadvantage in the strug- 
gle for a livelihood.” 

The general attitude reflected in such characteristic school 
graduation essays of the 1890 period as “Woman Is Most Per- 
fect When Most Womanly” and “Cooking, the Highest Art of 
Woman” contrasts sharply with the idea of getting one’s own 
living current among the Middletown high school girls of 
today: 89 per cent, of 446 girls in the three upper classes in 
1924 stated that they were planning to work after graduation, 
and 2 per cent, more were “undecided”; only 3 per cent, said 
definitely that they did not expect to work.^ 

But the married woman in business or industry finds her- 
self much less readily accepted than her unmarried sister. As 
late as 1875 the Supreme Court of the state held that a wife’s 
earnings were the property of her husband, and even today 
there is a widespread tendency to adhere to the view of a gen- 
eration ago that the employment of married women involves an 
“ethical” problem.^ Wives who do not themselves work may 
grumble that married women who work displace men and lower 
wages, and that they neglect their children or avoid the respon- 
sibility of child-bearing, while through their free and easy as- 

2 Six per cent, did not answer. See Appendix on Method regarding this 
questionnaire given to the three upper years of the high school. Large 
allowance must be made for subsequent changes of mind. It is not “the 
thing” today for a girl to admit that she plans to marry and be dependent, 
though the point is, of course, precisely that such an attitude has come to 
prevail so strongly since 18^. It is noteworthy that Middletown offers rela- 
tively few positions of instrinsic interest to a girl of the business group who 
has graduated from high school; this operates after Commencement to 
deflate considerably the zeal for working. 

It should be borne in mind that many girls of this age not in high school 
are already actually working. 

® As, for example, in Carroll D. Wright’s The Industrial Evolution of the 
United States (New York; Scribner, 1901), p. 3. 

Here, as in the case of child-rearing and of the institution of marriage dis- 
cussed in later chapters, the relatively slower rate of secularization of the 
home and family than of business and industry is apparent. 



saciation with men in the factory they encourage divorce. 
Many husbands, in their turn, oppose their wives’ working as 
a reflection upon their ability as “good providers.” These ob- 
jections are, however, in the main, back-eddies in a current 
moving in the other direction. The Federal Census for 1920 
showed that approximately twenty-eight women in every hun- 
dred women gainfully employed in Middletown were married, 
and among those employed in “manufacturing and mechanical 
industries,” thirty-three in every hundred.*^ 

These married women workers, according to the Census dis- 
tribution, go largely into working class occupations. Only one 
of forty business class women interviewed had worked for 
money during the previous five years (1920-24), and she in 
work of a semi-artistic nature. Of the fifty-five wives out of a 
sample of 124 working class families^ who had worked at some 
time during the previous five years (1920-24), twenty-four 
pointed to their husbands’ unemployment as a major reason for 
their working, six to money needed for their children’s educa- 
tion, five to debt, four spoke of “always needing extra money,” 
or “It takes the work of two to keep a family nowadays,” three 
of needing to help out with “so many children” ; the other an- 
swers were scattered : “Just decided I’d like to try factory work. 
I was tired of housekeeping and had a baby old enough [five 
months] to be left”; “I needed clothes”; “I wanted spending 

check by the Industrial Secretary of the local Y.W.C.A. on 8^ 
female employees in twenty-four factories, retail stores, banks, and public 
utilities in 1924 showed 6 per cent, divorced, 4 per cent widowed, 38 per 
cent, married, and 52 per cent, single. 

The percentage of women workers who are married has more than 
doubled since 18^ in the state in which Middletown is located. It is signifi- 
cant of the trend that the pre-war unwritten rule in certain local plants that 
a women automatically loses her job when she marries is disappearing. Cf. 
Mary N. Winslow, Married Women in Industry (Washington, D. C. ; 
Bulletin of the Women's Bureau, No. 38, 1924), p. 6 ff., for qualification 
of this trend toward equal acceptance of married women in industry. 

® See Appendix on Method for detailed account of the selection of these 
and of the forty business class families interviewed, the methods^ of inter- 
viewing, and the occupational distribution of both groups of families. It is 
important to bear in mind in consideration of all data based upon these 
two groups of families that, whereas the 124 working class families repre- 
sent what is believed to be a fair sample of the various levels of Middle- 
town’s working class in the dominant manufacturing and mechanical 
industries, the forty business class families include a somewhat ^ larger 
proportion of the prosperous and influential than would be characteristic of 
the entire group. Only families with children of school age were included 
in either group. 



money of my own”; “Other women could and I felt like I 
ought to” ; and “The mister was sick and I had to.” 

The cases of a few representative women will make more 
specific the complex of factors involved in the wife’s working: 


In one family, characteristic of a large number of those in 
which the mother works, a woman of forty-five, mother of four 
children aged eighteen, sixteen, fifteen, and twelve, had worked 
fifteen months during the previous five years at two different 
factories. At the first she worked ten hours a day for $15.15 a 
week, stopping work because of a lay-off ; at the second nine and a 
half hours a day for approximately the same wages, stopping be- 
cause her health ‘^gave out.” She went into factory work because 
“We always seemed to have a doctor’s bill around. The mister 
had an operation and I wanted to help pay that bill. Then he got 
back to work and was laid off again. He was out of work nine 
months last year. The children needed clothes and I had to do it.” 
But although the mother did what she could at home after her 
day at the factory and washed and ironed on Sundays, the oldest 
daughter had to leave high school and give up going to the Girl 
Reserves to look after the children. “I made a big mistake in leav- 
ing them. The youngest got to running away from home with other 
girls. Then was the time I should have been home with her.’’ 

Another type of situation, less frequent than the above, appears 
in a family of five — a woman of forty-six, her husband of forty- 
nine, a farmer prior to 1920 and now employed fairly steadily at 
semi-skilled machine shop work, and their three boys of nineteen, 
thirteen, and ten. The oldest boy is in the small local college and 
the mother works continuously at factory work in order that all 
three boys may go through high school and college, “so that they 
can get along easier than their father.” In a recent stretch of 
family unemployment the boy borrowed $125 to keep on at his 
schooling, both parents going on his note. The family manages by 
all buckling to the common Job: husband and boys have taken 
over much of the housework; the boy of ten has dinner ready 
when the family gets home at noon. 

^ In some more prosperous families securing a higher standard of 
living as well as education for her children leads the mother to 
work. One mother of two high school boys, a woman of forty- 
two, the wife of a pipe-fitter, goes outside her home to do cleaning 
in one of the city’s public institutions six days a week. “I began 



to work during the war,” she said, 'Svhen every one else did ; we 
had to meet payments on our house and everything else was get- 
ting so high. The mister objected at first, but now he don’t mind. 
Fd rather keep on working so my boys can play football and 
basketball and have spending money their father can’t give them. 
We’ve built our own home, a nice brown and white bungalow, 
by a building and loan like every one else does. We have it almost 
all paid off and it’s worth about $6,000. No, I don’t lose out with 
my neighbors because I work; some of them have jobs and those 
who don’t envy us who do. I have felt better since I worked than 
ever before in my life. I get up at five-thirty. My husband takes his 
dinner and the boys buy theirs uptown and I cook supper. We 
have an electric washing machine, electric iron, and vacuum 
sweeper. I don’t even have to ask my husband any more because I 
buy these things with my own money. I bought an icebox last 
year — a big one that holds 125 pounds ; most of the time I don’t 
fill it, but we have our folks visit us from back East and then I 
do. We own a $1,200 Studebaker with a nice California top, semi- 
enclosed. Last summer we all spent our vacation going back to 
Pennsylvania — taking in Niagara Falls on the way. The two boys 
want to go to college, and I want them to. I graduated from high 
school myself, but I feel if I can’t give my boys a little more all 
my work will have been useless.” 

This increasing emplo3mient of married women, which at the 
last Census involved nearly a thousand wives from the upwards 
of nine thousand families then in Middletown, must be viewed 
as a process of readjustment jammed in among the other 
changes occurring in the home and other sectors of Middle- 
town life. Fifty-six per cent, of the 124 working class wives 
interviewed had not worked for money during the five years 
1920-24, while 75 per cent, of 102 of their mothers on whom 
data was secured had not worked for money during their en- 
tire married lives. These figures undoubtedly dwarf the extent 
of the shift, as the interviews took place in most cases during 
the day and therefore included few women continuously em- 
ployed away from home at the time. Of the twenty-five mothers 
of the 1890 period who worked for pay, all but one worked 
either at home, e.g., taking in washing, or at work such as 
sewing and cleaning that took them away from home only oc- 
casionally, while thirty of the fifty-five present-day wives who 
had worked had worked in factories or other places necessitat- 



ing absence from home all day and every day.^ These women^ 
two-thirds of them reared in a farm or village environment in 
which family life centered about the wife and mother in the 
home, must now attempt to integrate with these early habits the 
diverse business of being a wnfe and mother in a city culture 
where from time to time their best energies are expended for 
eight and a half to ten hours a day in extraneous work away 
from home. 

Thus, from one point of view the section of Middletown’s 
population that gets its living by working for money is becom- 
ing larger ; to a greater extent than thirty-five years ago women 
share this activity with men. 

From the point of view of age, however, the section of the 
population which gets the city’s living is somewhat narrower. 
In general, it appears that male members of the working class 
start to work from fourteen to eighteen, reach their prime in 
the twenties, and begin to fail in their late forties, whereas the 
young males of the business class tend to continue their school- 
ing longer, start to work from eighteen to twenty-two, reach 
their prime in their thirties, and begin to fail somewhat later 
than the working class in cases where ripening years do not 
actually bring increased prestige. The whole working popula- 
tion tends to start to work from two to five years later than 
in 1890/ The compulsory school laws in force today make 
school attendance obligatory for all children until fourteen, 
allow working before sixteen only under very restricted condi- 

® These figures may not be used in comparing urban conditions in the 
nineties and today, since fifty-seven of the 113 working class wives for 
whom data were secured on place of childhood residence had lived on farms, 
fifteen in villages, and only forty-one in towns and cities. They do, however, 
reflect the actual magnitude of the readjustment these women in Middle- 
town today are having to make. 

Of the forty wives of the business class interviewed, seven had been 
brought up on farms. 

7 Whereas the working class constitutes 71 per cent, of those who get the 
city^s living, 52 per cent, of 309 boys in the three upper years of the high 
school answering a questionnaire on vocational choices were sons of work- 
ing class fathers. 

Cf. Chs. XI and XIII for the number of years spent in school by members 
of the business and of the working class and for the fresh problems this 
in-between generation is creating in the home. 




tions which tend to encourage remaining in school, and retain 
some control of working conditions until eighteen. In 1890, 
when there were no compulsory school attendance laws and 
two boys and a dozen girls constituted a year’s graduates from 
the high school, an abundance of boys available for factory 
work was a civic asset. The press of this early period reported 
a deputation from the national Flint Glassmakers’ Union as 
looking over IMiddletown before locating a cooperative glass 
factory ^'to make sure there will be no trouble in securing suffi- 
cient juvenile help,” and the editor lamented that “Boys are not 
as plentiful as blackberries.” Forty-one per cent, of the 425 
employees of the leading Middletown glass plant in 1892 were 
“boys,” according to the Report of the State Statistician for 
1891-92. State laws forbade the employment of boys under 
twelve years of age or for longer than ten hours a day, but 
“they had little practical effect, because no special officers were 
designated to administer them.” ® A state report in 1897 spoke 
of the “dwarfed and undeveloped appearance” of many of the 
boys in the factories in Middletown’s section of the state, “who 
had been engaged in the factories from the age of ten years 
or younger.” 

But although the labor of children in their early teens or 
younger has ceased in Middletown, youth plays a more prom- 
inent role than ever before in getting the city’s living; in fact, 
among the numerically dominant group, the working class, the 
relative positions of the young and the old would appear to be 
shifting. “When tradition is a matter of the spoken word, the 
advantage is all on the side of age. The elder is in the saddle.” ® 
Much the same condition holds when tradition is a matter of 
elaborate learned skills of hand and eye. But machine produc- 
tion is shifting traditional skills from the spoken word and the 
fingers of the master craftsman of the Middletown of the 
nineties to the cams and levers of the increasingly versatile 
machine. And in modern machine production it is speed and en- 
durance that are at a premium.^® A boy of nineteen may, after a 

^ W. A. P. Rawles, Centralising Tendencies in the Administration of [the 
State], (New York; Columbia University Press, 1^3), p. 315. 

® Goldenweiser, op. cit, pp, 407-8. 

10 discussion of the displacement of skill by the machine in Chapter 

VI below. 



few weeks of experience on a machine, turn out an amount of 
work greater than that of his father of forty-five.^^ 

An analysis of the ages of all male workers, exclusive of 
office personnel, in three leading iliddletown plants shows that 
two of the three (plants II and III in the Table), both modern 
machine shops, have respectively 19 and 27 per cent, of their 
male workers in the twenty to twenty-four age group, although 
only 12 per cent, of the city’s male population aged fifteen years 
and over in 1920 fell in this age group. At the other end, al- 
though 27 per cent, of the male population of fifteen years and 
over was aged forty-five to sixty-four, only 17 and 12 per cent, 
respectively of the male workers in these shops are of this age ; 
in the group aged sixty-five and older were 7 per cent, of the 
male population, but only i and 2 per cent, respectively of the 
workers in these shops. Plant I, on the other hand, which dates 
back to the end of the eighties. Is not of the predominant ma- 
chine shop type, and has the reputation of being ‘^one of the few 
places in towm that tries to look out for its older workers,’’ 
follows closely the population distribution.^^ 

For the state as a whole, which has undergone a heavy in- 
dustrial development since 1890, the percentage of increase be- 
tween 1890 and 1920 in the male population of the fifteen to 
tv^^enty-four age group engaged in manufacturing and mechan- 
ical industries was roughly seventeen times greater than the 
percentage of increase in the total male population of this age ; 

It is not uncommon for a father to be laid off during slack times while 
the son continues at work. 

Cf. regarding earnings of workers under twenty-one : Minors in Automo^ 
bile and Metal-Manufacturing Industries in Michigan (Washington, D. C. ; 
Children’s Bureau Publication No. 126, 1923), p. 12 ff. 

See Table II. Plant II is a high-speed modem machine shop owned 
by one of the great automotive corporations of the country and known 
locally as “hard-boiled” : it has half again as high a percentage of young 
men twenty to twenty-four years old as Plant I, one-fifth higher twenty- 
five to forty-four, and two-fifths lower forty-five to sixty-four. (Plant II, 
however, has been running only about fifteen years and only five years under 
the present ownership.) Plant III, another machine shop plant producing 
metal products, draws 16 per cent, of its total personnel (both male and 
female) from the sixteen to nineteen year group, and 30 per cent, from the 
twenty to twenty-four group, or nearly half of its entire personnel (46 per 
cent) from that section of the population under twenty- five years, while 
only II per cent, of all its workers are forty-five or over, despite the fact 
that it has been operated in Middletown since the nineties. Both of these 
plants are typical of current conditions, although it should be borne in mind 
that these large industrial plants represent the trend in its most advanc^ 



in the twenty-five to forty-four group, four and one- fourth 
times greater ; in the forty-five to sixty-four group two and one- 
half times greater ; in the sixty-five and over age group only one 
and two-thirds times/® 

Like many another trend in Middletown this increasing de- 
mand for young workers appears in a different light to the two 
groups concerned in it. To managerial members of the business 
group, it naturally appears largely as a problem of production : 

The head of a leading machine shop: ^T think there's less oppor- 
tunity for older men in industry now than there used to be. The 
principal change I’ve seen in the plant here has been the speeding 
up of machines and the eliminating of the human factor by ma- 
chinery. The company has no definite policy of firing men when 
they reach a certain age nor of hiring men under a certain age, 
but in general we find that when a man reaches fifty he is slipping 
down in production.'' 

The general manager of another prominent machine shop: 
^'Only about 25 per cent, of our workers are over forty. Speed 
and specialization tend to bring us younger men. We do not have 
an age line at which we fire men." 

The persomiel manager of another outstanding machine shop: 
“In production work forty to forty-five is the age limit because of 
the speed needed in the work. Men over forty are hired as sweep- 
ers and for similar jobs. We have no set age for discharging men.” 

The manager of another large plant in which 75 per cent, of the 
men are under forty-five: “We have a good many routine jobs 
a man can do if he is still strong. We try to find a place for these 
older men even when they are as old as fifty-five if there is no 
danger in their working near machinery." 

The superintendent of a small foundry: “Molders are working 
up to sixty-five in Middletown at present. After a man reaches 
forty to forty-five he begins to slow down, but these older, ex- 
perienced men are often valuable about the shop. But that's not 
true in the machine shops. There a man is harnessed to a machine 
and he can't slow down. If he does, his machine runs away with 

No detailed study was inade of the types of work performed by 
aging" industrial workers. It is usually not a question of their total super- 
annuation but rather of their slipping down the scale to work of a sort 
carrying less prestige or less pay, e.g., sweeping up about the plant, as 
indicated in the quotations cited. 



The superintendent of a foundry: Fifty per cent, of the men 
now employed by us are forty or over, but the company has de- 
cided to adopt a policy of firing every employee as he reaches 
sixty, because it takes a man over sixty so long to recover from 
accidents and the State law requires us to pay compensation dur- 
ing the entire period of recoveiy.” 

The superintendent of another major plant: “The age dead line 
is creeping down on those men — I'd say that by forty-five they are 

The old-age dead line as it looks from some apparently char- 
acteristic homes of Middletown w^orking class families is sug- 
gested by the answers of certain of the 124 wives to the staff 
interviewers" question : “What seems to be the future of your 
husband’s job?” These answers exhibit a more obvious pessi- 
mism, perhaps, because it was a time of local unemployment 
and many of the working class families were preoccupied with 
the immediate urgency of keeping a job or getting a new one.^® 

{Husband a laborer, age forty,) “Whenever you get old they 
are done with you. The only thing a man can do is to keep as 
young as he can and save as much as he can.” 

{Husband a foreman, age fifty-six,) “Good future if he’s not 
getting too old. The [plant] is getting greedier and pushing more 
every year.” 

{Husband a molder, age fifty-one.) “He often wonders what 
he’ll do when he gets a little older. He hopes and prays they’ll get 
the State old-age pension through pretty soon.” 

{Husband a machine tender, age thirty-nine.) “The company 
is pretty apt to look after him [i.e., not lay him off]. But when 
he gets older, then I don't know.” 

{Husband a machinist, age forty-four.) “They keep men there 
until they die.” 

{Husband a machinist, age forty-six.) “I worry about what 
we'll do when he gets older and isn't wanted at the factories and 
I am unable to go to work. We can’t expect our children to sup- 
port us and we can't seem to save any money for that time.” 

^^This shows how action aiming to "solve” one “social problem” fre- 
quently aggravates another. At certain of the Middletown plants men over 
fifty are barred from the “mutual aid” insurance plan for a similar reason. 

Cf. Ch. VII below on promotion for further answers to this question. 



{Husband a pattern maker, age forty.) “He is forty and in 
about ten years now will be on the shelf. A pattern maker really 
isn’t much wanted after forty-five. They always put in the young 
men. What will we do? Well, that is just what I don’t know\ We 
are not saving a penny, but we are saving our boys.” (Both boys 
attend the small local college.) 

As noted above, approximately half of the working class 
wives interviewed w’ere farm-bred. If roughly the same propor- 
tion holds for their husbands, perhaps a third of the men in 
Middletown are having to shift from a world where the physical 
decline is gradual and even the very old are useful to a new 
environment in which “economic superannuation takes place 
abruptly and earlier in life and stands like a specter before the 
industrial worker.” In a culture in which economic authority 
is so pervasive, the maladjustment of habits occasioned by loss 
of vocational and financial dominance by the elders may be ex- 
pected to have extensive repercussions throughout the rest of 
the living of the group.^^ 

Meanwhile, among the business class of Middletown, to a 
somewhat greater extent than among the working class, ad- 
vancing age still appears to mean increasing or stable earning 
power and social prestige. Among some members of the lower 
ranks of the business class, however, such as retail salespeople 
and clerical workers, old age is increasingly precarious as ag- 
gressive outside chain stores or new owners are more and more 
dominating local retailing methods. For instance, outside Jew- 
ish capital recently took over one of the men’s clothing stores 
and inaugurated a strict sales rule docking any clerk who 
spends three-quarters of an hour with a customer and fails to 
make a sale. This rule has resulted in the dropping of at least 
one of the older, slower clerks.^® And even in the professions, 

16 Abraham Epstein, Facing Old Age (New York; Knopf, 1922), p. 3. 

17 C£. in this connection James Mickel Williams’ Our Rural Heritage 

(New York; KInopf, 1925), p. 67. ^ 

Cf. Ch. XI for discussion of the decline 'of parental dominance over chil- 
dren, particularly in their late teens. 

i®01d age is not generally considered a “social problem,” though si^s 
of social strain connected with it are increasingly common — e.g., the relation 
between smaller houses shorn of “spare bed rooms” and the apparently 
dimim'shing tendency of married children to take elderly parents into their 
homes, noted elsewhere. The attitude toward old age appears to be going 
through the same cycle traveled by child labor, accident compensation, 
woman suffrage, factory inspection, and other social changes : for years there 



such as teaching and the ministry, the demand for youth is 
making itself felt more than a generation ago. 

Racially, those getting Middletown’s living are very largely 
native-born white Americans. Negroes, both in 1890 and today, 
have totaled only about 5 per cent, of the earners, virtually all 
of them being in the working class. 

A further factor, that of apparent variations in ^‘intelli- 
gence” among the people getting the city’s living, cannot be 
ignored. Whatever the extent of modification of native en- 
dowment by varying environmental conditions in the traits 
measured by “intelligence tests,” these tests do by and large 
seem to reflect differences in the equipment with which, at any 
given time, children must grapple with their world. A cross- 
section of the "white population was secured in the form of 
scores (Intelligence Quotients) of all white first-grade (lA 
and iB) children in the public schools, according to the Ter- 
man Revision of the Binet-Simon Intelligence Tests, adminis- 
tered by the professional school psychologist.^® Five of the 
twelve schools draw their children from both business and 
working class to such an extent as not to be clearly classifiable 
as predominantly one or the other ; three schools with a total of 

was no ‘"problem,” the situation was aggravated by other social changes, 
became more acute, until two factions emerged, the one “for” doing some- 
thing publicly about it and the other “against” doing something about it — 
until one side won and the new measure became taken for granted, or 
changed institutional factors rendered the issue obsolete. Limitation of child 
labor, factory inspection, workmen’s compensation, and tax-supported em- 
plo3-Tnent offices were opposed step by step by one group in Middletown 
as “socialistic” and making competition with other centers more difficult; 
they were pushed with equal persistence by another group. Provision for 
old age is just reaching the stage in Middletown of occasional questionings 
of the adequacy imder machine production in urban surroundings of the 
traditionally assumed benefits of the threat of old age as an incentive to 
saving, and also of the adequacy of the poor house as the wisest instrument 
for caring for the aged needy. In 1925 the Middletown Eagles, a working 
class lodge, actively backed the state lodge in introducing an old-age pen- 
sion bill into the Legislature, while a business group opposed and defeated 
the bill. 

i®The only white first-grade pupils not included were eighty-three chil- 
dren in the Catholic parochial school and four in the city’s one private 
school. Scores for these children were not available. 

It is not intended here to underwrite current extravagant claims for in- 
telligence tests. These scores are presented simply in the belief that they do 
represent, however inadequately, certain variations which must be taken into 
account in the study of ffiis community. 



97 first-grade children and four schools with 290 first-grade 
children may, however, be fairly accurately classified as mark- 
edly business class and working class, respectively. Their scores 
compare as follows with those of the total 66 y first-grade 
children in the city : 

Percentage Percentage 
Distribution Distribution Percentage 

of 97 Chil- of 290 Chil- Distribution 

dren Chiefly of dren Chiefly of of 667 Chil- 
Business Class Working Class dren in All 
Parents ~ 

‘Near Genius” (I. Q. 140+) 0.0 

“Very Superior” (I. Q. 120-139) 7.2 

“Superior” (I. Q. 110-119) 18.6 

“Normal or Average” (I. Q. 90-109) 60.8 
“Dull, rarely feeble-minded” (I. Q. 


“Borderline, often feeble-minded” ( 1 . 

Q. 70-79) 2.1 

“Moron” ( 1 . Q. 50-69) 0.0 

“Imbecile” ( 1 . Q. 25-49) 0.0 

“Idiot” (L Q. Below 25) 0.0 




. 0.0 











S 2.6 

1 1.3 


















The tendency to diverge suggested by the first two columns 
above should be borne in mind throughout the entire range of 
earning a living, making a home, leisure time, training the 
young, religious, and community activities to follow. 

A final point worth noting in regard to those who get Mid- 
dletown’s living is the constant process whereby Middletown 
tends to recruit its population from the outlying smaller com- 
munities about it and itself in turn to lose certain of its young 
potential leaders to larger cities. A check of the Middletown 
residents in the graduating classes of the high school for the 
years 1916-19, for the number who in May, 1925, still lived 
in Middletown and the number living elsewhere, revealed the 
fact that roughly half of the 135 boys and a third of the 221 
girls residing in Middletown when they graduated from high 
school in the four years 1916-19 had not returned to the city to 
live five years later. For example, of eighteen boys in the class 
of 1916, eight were nine years later in Middletown, one else- 
where in the state, four in other of the East-North-Central 
group, and five elsewhere in the United States. These migrants 
undoubtedly contain a fairly high percentage of the more ener- 



getic young men of the type who go off to college. On the 
other hand, of the seven boys graduating from the high school 
of a small neighboring town in 1908, every one has left the 
little town : two going to Middletown, where one is president 
of the young business men’s Dynamo tlub of the Chamber 
of Commerce, two to another near-by city, and three others to 
cities still more remote. 

Nobody knows exactly what such a depletion from above 
and enrichment from below means to the life of a city. It is, 
however, pertinent to bear it in mind as a possible factor in- 
fluencing the energy and quality of all the activities of Mid- 
dletown, notably the degree of resistance to social change. One 
student of American life has remarked that “frequently the loss 
of even the best tenth will cut down by 50 per cent, the effective 
support the community gives to higher interests.” 

**E. A Ross, The Social Trend (New York; Century, 1922), p. 45. 

Chapter VI 


Little connection appears between most of the nearly four 
hundred routinized activities in which these men and women 
are engrossed day after day in their specialized places of work 
and the food, sex, and shelter needs of human beings. A few 
of these workers buy and sell quantities of food, clothing, and 
fuel made by other specialized workers in other communities, 
and a few others spend their days in making houses for other 
members of the group. Only to a negligible extent does Mid- 
dletown make the food it eats and the clothing it wears. Instead, 
it makes hundreds of thousands of glass bottles or scores of 
thousands of insulators or automobile engine parts. The an- 
nual output of a single plant, employing a thousand of the 
city’s total of 17,000 who get its living, aggregates $12,000,- 
000; everything this plant makes is promptly shipped away, 
and perhaps one-tenth of i per cent, of it ever returns as a few 
obscure parts hidden in some of the automobiles Middletown 

And this gap between the things the people do to get a liv- 
ing and the actual needs of living is widening. Radical changes 
in the activities of the working class in the predominant indus- 
tries of Middletown during the last four decades have driven 
the individual workman ever farther from his farm and vil- 
lage background of the eighties.^ Inventions and technology 
continue rapidly to supplant muscle and the cunning hand of the 
master craftsman by batteries of tireless iron men doing nar- 
rowly specialized things over and over and merely “operated 

iln the pages that follow more space is devoted to the activities of the 
working class in getting a living than to those of the business class. A 
number of considerations prompted this treatment: (i) the heavy numen«l 
preponderance of the working class ; (2) the more sweeping changes in the 
types of work performed by them, including that from hand to rnacnine 
labor with all the social dislocations involved therein; (3) the fact that we 
working man’s life is buttressed or assailed at more points pclusively by his 
job ; he is supported by fewer kinds of soc^l and other ties, while his lite 




or '"tended"' in their orderly clangorous repetitive processes by 
the human worker. The newness of the iron man in Middletown 
is reflected in the fact that as recently as 1900 the local press 
reported only seventy-five ""machinists” in the city.^ 

The coming of machine brains and brawn is vividly re- 
vealed by the tool-using processes in a local glass plant in 1890 
and today. Then, the blowing of glass jars w^as almost entirely 
a hand skill. The furnace in which the glass was melted held 
eight to fourteen ""pots” of molten glass, each pot being the 
focus of the activities of a ""shop” or crew of two highly-skilled 
‘"blowers” and three boy assistants — one ‘"gatherer,” one “tak- 
ing-out boy,” and one ""carry-in boy.” Through a narrow, un- 
protected ring-hole the gatherer collected a small gob of glass 
on a long iron blow-pipe from the blistering interior of the pot. 
Moving back to a tub six feet from the furnace, he quickly 
smoothed the ball of glass in a “block” and passed it to one 
of the blowers. The latter swung to the rhythm of his work at 
a distance of eight feet from the furnace, setting the pipe to 
his lips, swinging it up until the glowing ball on the other end 
was above the level of his lips, blowing, lowering the balloon 
of glass into the jaws of a waiting mold shut with a foot 
treadle, blowing a third time until a thin bright “blow-over” 
of molten glass oozed over the mouth of the mold and he could 
twist his pipe free from the thin glass without hurting the part 
of the jar inside. It took as a rule three deep breaths to a jar 
and he averaged about twenty-five seconds to a jar — some- 
thing under 100 dozen quart jars a day. At his side on a stool 

is more frequently and drastically disrupted by such purely job occurrences 
as lay-offs and accidents; and (4) ffie greater reticence of the business class 
in talking to strangers about certain intimate matters, e.g., their hopes and 
fears about their work and the details of their financial status, which forced 
the research staff to content itself with data on the working class alone at 
certain points. More detailed study of the work of the business class, how- 
ever, would obviously have been desirable. 

2 The sweeping industrial changes since the end of the eighties are sug- 
gested by the fact that the evolution of the iron and steel industry, second 
in the IQ19 census in value of product, did not begin on a large scale until 
about 1&7 ; the automobile industry, third in value of product in 1919, was 
non-existent in the late eighties; the motion picture industry was non- 
existent ; the chemical and electrical industries were in their infancy. “Ninety 
per cent, of the total growth of the electrical industry as a whole has oc- 
curred during the past twenty-five years.’^ {Electrical World, Fiftieth Anni- 
versary Number, VoL 84, No. 12, September 20, 1924, p. 640.) “In the early 
eighties there was no college in this country where one could take a course 
in electrical engineering/^ {Ibid. p. 566,) 


by the molds sat a third worker, the taking-out boy, who took 
the red-hot jar from the mold and placed it on a tray for a 
fourth worker, who carried it several yards to the annealing 
oven. The three boys in the shop kept the two blowers going. 
It was hot, steady work with only a couple of five-minute halts 
from 7:00 to 10:00, when a fifteen-minute ‘Tempo'' occurred, 
during which one of the boys might be sent across the street 
with a row of buckets strung on a long pole for beer ; then at it 
again from 10:15 to 12:00 with one or two more five-minute 
breaks; lunch, 12:00 to 1:00; work, 1:00 to 3:00; another 
fifteen-minute “tempo”; and then the last leg till 5:00, each 
of the two afternoon “spells” with one or two brief breaks. 
On hot days in early summer the pauses might have to come 
every half hour; in midsummer the plants closed down entirely. 
It is important to note that the speed and rhythm of the work 
were set by the human organism^ not by a machine. And with 
all the repetition of movement involved, the remark of an old 
glass-blower should be borne in mind, that “you never learn 
all there is to glass-blowing, as there’s always some new twist 
occurring to you.” 

The annealing ovens of 1890 were stacked full of hot jars by 
a “layer-in boy” using a long fork, the oven sealed, heated to 
1000° F., and then left for seventy-two hours to cool. The jars 
were then removed, again by hand, the irregular “blow-over” 
of glass about the lip of each jar chipped off by hand and then 
ground smooth by girls standing in front of revolving iron 
plates covered with wet sand, washed by other girls, and then 
carried to the packing room. One twelve horse-power engine 
furnished all the mechanical power for this entire plant at the 
end of the eighties. 

Today this entire process, save the last step of transporting 
to the packing room, occurs without the intervention of the 
human hand. The development of the Owens and other bottle- 
blowing machines shortly after 1900 “eliminated all skill and 
labor” and rendered a hand process that had come down largely 
unchanged from the early Egyptians as obsolete as the stone 
ax. Batteries of these Briareus-like machines revolve endlessly 
day and night, summer and winter, in this factory today, dip- 
ping in turn as they pass a ghostly finger at the end of each 
of their ten or fifteen arms into the slowly revolving pot of 
molten glass. Enough glass to make a jar is drawn up, molded 



roughly in a blank mold, which mold withdraws while a second 
or finishing mold rises, closes about the red-hot glass, com- 
pressed air forces the glass into the crannies of the mold — and a 
jar is made. As giant Briareus circles endlessly round and 
round, each arm in turn drops its red-hot burden on to an 
automatic belt conveyor which winds its way to the “lehr” — 
the modern annealing oven. Into the electrically operated lehr 
the jars march, single file, and take their places on the slowly 
moving floor, to journey for three hours under the care of 
pyrometers and emerge eighty feet farther on, cool enough to 
be handled with the naked hand. 

In 1890, 1,600 dozen quart jars could be turned out in a 
one-shift day from an eight-pot furnace manned by twenty- 
one men and twenty- four boys. Today one furnace manned 
by three ten-arm machines and a human crew of eight men 
turns out 6,600 dozen quart jars in a one-shift day of the same 

Similar, though perhaps not so spectacular, changes have 
occurred throughout the other departments of the plant.^ It is in 
these other departments that one observes particularly the speed- 
ing-up process of the iron man. In the room in which zinc 
caps for the fruit jars are punched, the punches were operated 
by a foot-treadle in 1890 and, at the will of the operator, about 
seventy caps could be punched in a minute. Today the power- 
driven machines hit a pace hour after hour of 188 punches a 
minute, or at the rate of two caps a punch, 366 caps a min- 
ute. The noise necessitate^ shouting close to the ear if one is 
to be heard. 

Even more characteristic perhaps of the machine age in 
Middletown is the high-speed specialization of the several au- 
tomobile part plants. Having in this new automobile industry 
little previous heritage of plant and machinery, the planning 
and control of the engineer have had a clear field for the in- 
troduction of machine production methods.^ Specialization in 

®Iii 1890 a man with a two-wheel truck trundled six dozen jars at a time 
to the packing room, whereas today one man with an electric tow motor 
hauls 150 dozen jars. Freight cars today are loaded by a conveyor that ex- 
tends into the car. Automatic mixers operated by electricity have replaced 
men with shovels in the batch room where the sand and other ingredients 
are mixed for the furnace. 

C£. Veblen’s comment regarding the significance for the industrial rise of 
modem Germany of “the break with an earlier and traditional situation in 
trade and industry [which] left German enterprise hampered with fewer 


tool processes is proceeding rapidly.' Here, for instance, is what 
a tj’pical worker in a local plant making automobile parts does 
to get a living. The worker is drilling metal joint rings for the 
front of a well-known automobile. He stands all day in front of 
his multiple drill-press, undrilled rings being brought con- 
stantly to his elbow and his product carted aw'ay. Three times 
each minute, nine hours a day, he does the following set of 
things : He picks up tw'O joint rings with his left hand, inserts 
them in his iron man with both hands, turns two levers waist- 
high with both hands to close jigs, pushes up shoulder-high 
lever with right hand, takes hold of levers at waist line with 
both hands and turns the rotating table with its four jigs half- 
way round, pulls shoulder-high lever with right hand, pulls 
shoulder-high lever with left hand, removes the two rings which 
have been drilled with right hand, while he picks up two new 
rings with his left hand, inserts the two new rings into the 
drill press with both hands — and does the process all over 

In still a third type of plant, a foundry, changes have in- 
volved chiefly the process of making the sand molds and the 
methods of conveying the materials about the plant. All the 
castings were made in a leading Middletown foundry in the 
nineties by highly-skilled hand molders, “bench molders,” 
whereas, despite strong union opposition, 60 per cent, of the 
castings today are made by machine molders who need only 
a fortnight or so of training. In the transporting of materials 
a magno-electric crane and three men today pile two and one- 
half times as much scrap into a furnace as twelve men could 

conventional restrictions and less obsolescent equipment and orgamzation 
on its hands than the corresponding agencies of retardation in any of the 
contemporary English-speaking countries.” Imperial Germany (New York; 
Huebsch, 1918), p. 186. ^ .... • 1 * j 

® “From the beginning, division of labor and inventions were stimulateu 
by each other. Directly a job was divided up into simple elements, it became 
comparatively easy to devise a tool or machine for doing that particular 
work, and profitably if the market were large enough to keep the machinery 
in full use. Conversely, the increased effective use of machinery tended to 
greater and greater division of labor ; and this interaction of machinery and 
the division of labor acted in turn on the development of the factory and the 
organization of big business, owing to the economic af^antage ^ the con- 
tinuous employment of specialists and specialized machinery. P. bargant 
Florence, Economics of Fatigue and Unrest (New York; Holt, 1924) » p- 34 * 

® In estimating his production, on which his pay is based, me comply 
allows 10 per cent, of this worker's time for taking care of his machme, 
and 10 per cent, for rest and delay. 



thirty years ago in the same time. “The men in the nineties car- 
ried boxes of scrap on their heads; it was heavy work and it 
was hard to keep a man on the job/' Today the crane trans- 
ports from one end of the plant to the other in a minute and a 
half materials it took a man a half day of fifteen journeys to 
wheel in 1890. As Frederick W. Taylor remarked, for such 
work “the Gorilla type are no more needed.’’ 

Other Middletown tool-using activities record similar 
changes. The diary of an employee in a leading confectionery 
shop in 1893 gleefully announces the installation of a machine 
to turn the ice cream freezers. Two men with a compressed air 
pick and chisel, outfit known as a “paving breaker” can today 
accomplish as much work as fifteen laborers under the old pick- 
and-shovel-spit-on-your-hands regime. One Middletown indus- 
try, manufacturing annually enough woven wire fence to en- 
close half the United States, which began when a farmer’s in- 
ventive son who knew the labor of rail-splitting devised a hand- 
power wire fence weaver, today produces with a single power 
machine sixteen times as much fence as the early hand machine. 

If the working class in Middletown does not make the ma- 
terial necessities of its everyday life, the activities of the busi- 
ness class appear at many points even more remote. As the 
population has forsaken the less vicarious life of the farm or 
village and as industrial tools have become increasingly elab- 
orated, there has been a noticeable swelling in the number and 
complexity of the institutional rituals by which the specialized 
products of the individual worker are converted into the bio- 
logical and social essentials of living. It is by carrying on these 
institutional rituals that the business group gets its living. 

In the main these are elaborations of similar, if simpler, 
devices of the nineties, not exhibiting such spectacular changes 
as that involved, for instance, in the shift from hand to ma- 
chine processes. Thus the “general manager” of the glass fac- 
tory of a generation ago has been succeeded by a “production 
manager,” a “sales manager,” an “advertising manager,” a 
“personnel manager,” and an “office manager.” The whole busi- 
ness structure is dominated by the necessity for keeping costly 
machines busy. As the business man moves intently to and fro 
“hiring,” “laying off,” “arranging a new line of credit,” ''put- 
ting on a bargain sale,” “increasing turnover,” “meeting com- 
petition,” “advertising,” and otherwise operating his appro- 


priate set of rituals under the rules prescribed by ‘‘business/' 
he seems subject to almost as many restrictions as the machine 
dictates to the worker who manipulates its levers. 

Chief among these devices for converting the actual products 
of labor into the necessities and satisfactions of life is the ex- 
changing or arranging for exchange of money for usable things 
in stores, banks, and offices. Retail selling remains much the 
same kind of thing that it was a generation ago, though, to be 
sure, the pace has quickened since the middle of the eighties, 
when a leading retailer recorded placidly in his diary at the end 
of the day, “Quiet in the way of trade. Farmers are busy and 
kept at home," or “We have had a fair trade today — sold 
twenty screen doors." But here, too, specialization is apparent. 
The Busy Bee Bazaar and the Temple of Economy on Main 
Street are being displaced by brisk, competing men's wear, 
w'omen's wear, electrical, gift, leather-goods, and other “spe- 
cialty” shops. A swarm of chain stores is pressing hard upon 
the small independent retailer, who had things far more his 
own way in the nineties ; during an apparently characteristic ten 
months from April, 1924, through January, 1925, three Mid- 
dletown clothing stores and one shoe store were taken over by 
selling agencies having at least one store in another city, and 
four new chains entered the city with one or more branches/ 
Trade papers, new to Middletown since the nineties, hammer 
away at the local retailer about “increasing turnover,” while 
selling promotion men sent out by manufacturers' associations 
worry him at his civic club luncheons by telling him that his 
“clerks sell only 1 5 per cent, of their time,” and “salaries ought 
to be paid on a sliding scale based on individual sales.” ® 

The allied business institution of “credit” is coming rapidly 
to pervade and underlie more and more of the whole institu- 
tional structure within which Middletown earns its living. 
Middletown in the early eighties may almost be compared to 
an English provincial town in the middle of the eighteenth cen- 
tury when “there was little capital laid down in fixed plant and 

^ These four chains included one clothing store, two food stores, and one 
ten-cent store. The last of these did not open a store at the time but bought 
a central location necessitating the removal of two established retail busi- 

* Cf. Ch. VII for a description of the trend in the number of hours worked 
in retail stores away from the leisurely open-ah-day-and-all-evening plan 
of thirty-five years ago. 



the machinery of finance and credit was very slight. hen the 
fathers of the present generation in ^Middletown wanted to^ buy 
a piece of land they were lilcely to save up the money and 
cash” for it, and it was a matter of pride to be able to say, “I 
always pay cash for the things I buy.” “In 1890, szys a local 
banker who was then a rising young business man, “you had to 
have cash to buy. I wanted to buy a $750 lot and had only $350 
in cash. The man wanted cash and there was no place in town 
where I could raise the money, so I lost the place. A store on 
Main Street was usually owned lock, stock, and barrel by the 
man in spectacles who sold a customer three yards of calico or 
a pound of ten-penny nails. This man, when he bought five bolts 
Qt calico from the man whose workers made it, might also have 
paid cash for the goods. A great many private citizens kept 
their surplus money in a trunk or hidden away about the home, 

though some might take it to Mr. at the Middletown 

County Bank or even buy government bonds. People dreaded 
“being in debt,” but a man who owned a house or a business 
might in an emergency borrow small sums of the local banks. 

Today Middletown lives by a credit economy that is avail- 
able in some form to nearly every family in the community. The 
rise and spread of the dollar-down-and-so-much-per plan ex- 
tends credit for virtually ever3d:hing — ^homes, $200 over-stuffed 
living-room suites, electric washing machines, automobiles, fur 
coats, diamond rings — ^to persons of whom frequently little is 
known as to their intention or ability to pay."^® Likewise, the 
building of a house by the local carpenter today is increasingly 
ceasing to be the simple act of tool-using in return^ for the 
prompt payment of a sum of money. The contractor is exten- 
sively financed by the banker, and this more and more fre- 
quently involves such machinery as “discoimting second-mort- 

® Cf. Ch. IX for a discussion of the facilities for home financing today. 

lo'phis sudden expansion of the miraculous ability to make things belong 
to one immediately under the installment payment plan has telescoped Ae 
future into the present. It would be interesting to study the extent to which 
this emphasis upon the immediately possessed is altering Middletown’s habits 
as touching all manner of things involving the future, e.g., the increasing 
unwillingness today, noted. elsewhere, ^of young working class boys to learn 
more than is necessary to operate a single machine so as to earn immediate 
big pay, regardless of the future and of how this early specialization may 
affect their chances to become foremen. Elsewhere will be noted the frequent 
loss of homes today — ^with resulting disorganization of many kinds — ^by 
people who attempt to purchase "‘on time” with inadequate resources. 


gage notes/’ A veteran official of a local building and loan com- 
pany summed up the present-day optimistic reliance upon credit 
for all things great and small: ‘‘People don't think anj-thing 
nowadays of borrowing sums they’d never have thought of bor- 
rowing in the old days. They will assume an obligation for 
$2,000 today as calmly as they would have borrowed $300 or 
$400 in 1890/’ 

As the study progresses, the tendency of this sensitive insti- 
tution of credit to serve as a repressive agent tending to stand- 
ardize widening sectors of the habits of the business class — ^to 
vote the Republican ticket, to adopt golf as their recreation, 
and to refrain from “queer,” i.e., atypical, behavior — ^will be 

Advertising has grown rapidly since 1890, when the local 
press first began to urge that “advertising is to a business what 
fertilizer is to a farm.” Local grocers rely less upon the mild 
advertising of giving the children a bag of candy or cookies 
when they pay the monthly bill and now scratch their heads over 
“copy” for the press. The first electric sign was hung out before 
a local store in 1900 and the press pronounced the “effect . . . 
dazzling.” Today all sorts of advertising devices are tried: a 
local drug chain hires an airplane to blazon “Hook’s Drugs” 
on the sky ; a shoe store conducting a sale offers one dollar each 
to the first twenty-five women appearing at the store on Mon- 
day morning; semi-annual “dollar days” and “suburban days” 
are conducted by the press. Ad. Club and Merchants’ Associa- 
tion; and an airplane drops a thousand coupons in the town’s 
“trading area,” each coupon good for from $0.25 to $5.00 
worth of trade in some local store. The advertising carried in 
the leading daily paper is six times that in the leading daily of 

In response to these elaborations of the business system, the 
law, concerned in large part with facilitating its operation and 
maintaining the sanctions of “Private Property,” “Free Com- 
petition,” and “Individual Initiative” upon which it rests, has 
likewise grown in complexity, notably through the addition of 
“corporation law.” It is characteristic of the trend in the 

See Table XXII for distribution of this advertising by kind. 

12 “No invention of modem times, not even that of negotiable paper, has 
so changed the face of commerce and delighted lawyers with a variety of 
new and intricate problems as the creation of incorporated joint-stock 
companies. America, though she came latest into the field, has developed 



Mk-ways of this city and its overwhelming preoccupation with 
business that just as the high school '‘professor” has been sur- 
passed in salary and prestige by the vocational teacher, and the 
dominance of the professional man has been largely usurped by 
the business man, so the prestige of the judge in the legal pro- 
fession has yielded to that of the corporation lawyer. 

Yet, pervasive as these elaborations in ways of doing busi- 
ness are, externally and in terms of the actual activities involved 
they exhibit less tendency to change than do those of the work- 
ing class. There is little here comparable to the shift of the 
glass-blower learning to tend an Owens machine, the teamster 
learning to run a motor truck, or the compositor a Mergen- 
thaler linotype. The merchant, the retail clerk, the banker, the 
lawyer still do, with some exceptions, essentially the same 
things that they did in 1890; they sit or stand at desks or tables 
dealing with people in face-to-face relations or through writing 
or advertising copy at a distance, arranging for them to ex- 
change money for things or to carry on other standardized re- 
lations with each other according to increasingly complicated 
developments of the old devices. It is not so much a question of 
business men doing different kinds of things in Middletown as 
compared with a generation ago as of their doing the same 
things or specialized segments of the same things more in- 

With these nearly four hundred kinds of work available in 
Middletown and many more in adjacent localities, and with 
presumably a wide range of human aptitudes and propensities 
represented in the city's population, an intricate matching of 
jobs and personalities must contrive somehow to solve itself 
before young Middletown starts to work. Most of the city's 
boys and girls “stumble on” or “fall into” the particular jobs 
that become literally their life work. The pioneer tradition that 
“you can't keep a good man down” and the religious tradition 
of free rational choice in finding one's “calling” have helped 
to foster a laissez-faire attitude toward matching the indi- 
vidual and the job. 

these on a grander scale and with a more refined skill than the countries of 
the Old World/^ Janies Bryce, The American Commonwealth (New York; 
Macmillan, 1897), Vol. II, p. 655. 

The work of teachers, doctors, and ministers is treated in subsequent 


But the complacency o£ even a generation ago in this regard 
is less general in Middletown today. Living in all its aspects 
leans upon money more than ever before, and the conviction 
is growing that chance should not be given such a free rein 
in so crucial a matter as finding one’s livelihood. Not satisfied 
with the vocations chance has dealt them, many parents want 
to do something more for their children, but, particularly among 
the working class, they are frequently at a loss as to how to 
go about it. Such ideas as working class parents have for their 
children’s future are largely negative : 'T hope they w^on’t have 
to work as hard as their father” ; or, don’t want the girls 
to go into no factory if he can help it.” For many, the magic 
symbol of education takes the place of any definite plans for 
vocation: “We want them to have a good education so they 
can get along easier than their father” ; and, “If they don’t have 
a good education, they’ll never know anything but hard work.” 

If a child of a business class family shows particular fitness 
or desire for a certain vocation he is usually encouraged to go 
on with it, provided it will yield money or social position com- 
parable to or better than his father’s. In the absence of marked 
individual aptitude, family preferences of varying degrees of 
relevance and the easy attraction of the familiar carry great 
weight, and latent abilities may go undiscovered. In this group, 
also, parental uncertainty frequently takes refuge in exposing 
the children to as much education as possible. 

Religious groups supplement such counsel as parents are 
able to give by setting forth the claims of the life of a minister 
or missionary. But the most marked, though as yet incipient, 
effort to guide the young among the maze of occupations ap- 
pears in the public schools. Aside from the occasional sugges- 
tion of individual teachers, this consists in two recently estab- 
lished devices: a solitary “vocational guidance” class in the 
junior high school which seeks to introduce pupils collectively 
to the training for and opportunities in various trades and pro- 
fessions, and a series of “chapel” talks given to the high school 
seniors by local men each April and May on the “opportunities” 
in Business, in the Ministry, in Law, in Education, and similar 
more obvious “callings.” These last are usually general talks 
urging the graduates to be “concerned” about the work they 
enter, to have “vision” and “determination.” Their tone is in- 
dicated by the concluding words of one speaker: “This is a 

5 ° 


great old world ; America is one of the most wonderful coun- 
tries on the face of the earth, and we must prepare our lives 
to serve our country — ^prepare for worth-while occupations.” 
The vocational work in the high school also furnishes a trial- 
and-error sifting among certain tool-using occupations pursued 
chiefly by the working class.^^ 

But such new sorting devices affect relatively few of Middle- 
town’s children. For the most part they “go to work” by tak- 
ing advantage of some vacancy they or their families happen to 
hear about and spend the rest of their lives doing that thing 
with what satisfaction it may or may not happen to afford. The 
pressure of the customary in confining the choice of Middle- 
town’s youth to the obvious jobs available in the city can 
scarcely be over-emphasized. As the zero hour for starting to 
work draws near, the tendency to conform grows more ap- 
parent. The vocational plans of a random sample of 225 young 
boys aged eight to fourteen revealed a range of wished-for 
occupations that included “running a museum,” “being an 
astronomer,” “being a cartoonist,” an architect, a musician, and 
other uncommon preferences. It is probably safe to say, how- 
ever, that few of these boys will eventually find their way into 
work so far from the usual group habits. What will probably 
become of them, even those who go on to high school, is sug- 
gested by Book’s study of the vocational choices of high school 
seniors in this state : 

“Only sixteen different lines of work were chosen by our total 
group of more than 6,000 seniors. Some of these occupations were 
selected by so few seniors as to make them almost negligible. The 
occupations selected most often by the boys were engineering 
per cent.) and farming (24 per cent.) ; by the girls teaching (47 
per cent.) and clerical work (34 per cent.). ... We have boys 
and girls coming into our high schools from all classes and occu- 

pupils who have graduated from the Middletown high school 
with a degree in electricity since the course was inaugurated, fifty-two 
“^11^ Soue into the electrical trade or to study electrical engineering in 
college, while sixty-eight have gone into other lines. Of eighW-one who 
have graduated in the drafting course, forty-five are draftsmen or in related 
trades or m engineermg schools, while thirty-six are in other trades. In the 
prmting course eleven out of fifty-six boys who have taken the training are 
now prmters. * 


pational groups. The high school is unconsciously directing them 
towards a few lines of work — ^the traditional professions.” 

But, though boys naturally tend to gravitate towards the 
stock occupations understood and recognized by the commu- 
nity, owing to the spread of high school education and other 
factors they apparently enter the same line of work as their 
fathers somewhat less commonly than a generation ago. City 
directories show fewer persons having the same name engaged 
in the same work. An analysis of the vocational preferences of 
a sample of 309 ^Middletown high school sophomore, junior, 
and senior boys as compared with the occupations of their 
fathers shows a marked tendency among these children who 
have gone to high school, especially those of working class 
parents, to break away radically from the work of their fathers. 
Of the 309 fathers 52 per cent, are working class men, and 48 
per cent, belong to the business and professional class. Only 20 
per cent, of the 309 boys answered the question, “What are 
you planning to do to earn a living?” by indicating some 
manual activity of the working class sort — a third of the 20 
per cent, listing industrial jobs, a quarter building trades jobs, 
and a third printers, barbers, railroad men, etc.; 18 per cent, 
want to go into business other than the professions ; while 54 
per cent, wish to enter learned or technological professions, 
fully half of them as engineers, architects, chemists, etc., a 
quarter as doctors, lawyers, and ministers, and the final quarter 
as teachers, musicians, and writers.^® These totals greatly under- 
estimate the actual shift away from the occupations of the 
fathers, particularly among the working class : e.g., of the 
sixty-two boys who want to enter manual livelihoods, only 
twenty-two want to enter tool-using occupations in the manu- 
facturing and mechanical industries, although 12 1 of the 
fathers are so engaged ; while five boys want to be wood work- 
ers, fourteen printers, and ten electricians, not one of the 

William F. Book, The Intelligence of High School Seniors (New York; 
Macmillan, 1922), pp. 139-142. The influence of high school vocational work 
is too recent to be adequately reflected in this study. As will be i)ointed out 
later, the vocational work, too, confines itself largely to preparing children 
for a few dominant tool skills. 

Seven per cent, were uncertain, and i per cent fell in a miscellaneous 
group answering boxer, acrobat, etc. 



fathers is either a wood worker or a printer, and only two are 
electricians. Fourteen sons want to be teachers, while only two 
of the fathers are teachers, the fathers of at least twelve of 
the would-be teachers being working men. Thirteen sons want 
to be doctors, while only seven fathers are doctors, and actually 
at least ten of these thirteen sons are not children of doctors and 
eight of them are working class children. Eighty-five boys want 
to be engineers, architects, chemists, etc., although only eleven 
of the fathers are so classified. 

It is, of course, impossible to say how far these choices will 
carry over into the w’ork actually done by these boys. The as- 
signment of life occupations, for the most part so casual, with 
the emphasis in the selection more upon the work available than 
upon the subtleties of the individual, tends to fasten upon get- 
ting a living an instrumental rather than an inherently satisfy- 
ing role. This tendency must never be lost sight of as we ob- 
serve Middletown getting its living, making its homes, spend- 
ing its leisure, and engaging in other vital activities. 

Furthermore, eighty-five out of each hundred of those en- 
gaged in earning the city’s living work for others and are 
dosely directed by them, while only the remaining fifteen are 
either independent workers or persons whose work involves 
some considerable independence and ability to “manage” 

This whole complex of doing day after day fortuitously as- 
signed things, chiefly at the behest of other people, has in the 
main to be strained through a pecuniary sieve before it assumes 
vital meaning. This helps to account for the importance of 
money in Middletown, and, as an outcome of this dislocation of 
energy expenditure from so many of the dynamic aspects of 
living, we are likely to find some compensatory adjustments in 
other regions of the city’s life. 

Computed after Hookstadt from the U. S. Census occupational distri- 
bution for Middletown for 1920 (cf. Carl Hookstadt, “Reclassification of the 
U. S. 1920 Occupational Census by Industry,” Monthly Labor Review, VoL 
XVII, No. i). 

Chapter VII 


As one prowls IMiddletown streets about six o’clock of a 
winter morning one notes tw^o kinds of homes : the dark ones 
w’here people still sleep, and the ones with a light in the 
kitchen where the adults of the household may be seen moving 
about, starting the business of the day. For the seven out of 
every ten of those gainfully employed who constitute the work- 
ing class, getting a living means being at work in the morning 
anywhere between six-fifteen and seven-thirty o’clock, chiefly 
seven. For the other three in each ten, the business class, being 
at work In the morning means seven-forty-five, eight or eight- 
thirty, or even nine o’clock, but chiefly eight-thirty. Of the 
sample of 1 12 Tvorking class housewives reporting on this point, 
forty-eight (two out of five) rise at or before five o’clock, 
seventy-nine (nearly three-fourths) by five-thirty, and 104 
(over nine-tenths) are up at or before six. Among the group 
of forty business class housewives interviewed, none rises be- 
fore six, only six at six, fourteen at any time before seven, and 
twenty-six rise at seven or later. 

This gap between the rising hours of the two sections of the 
population touches the interlocked complex of Middletown life 
at many points. A prominent citizen speaking on the curtailing 
of family life by clubs, committees, and other organized activi- 
ties urged the parents of the city to “Help solve the boy prob- 
lem by making breakfast a time of leisurely family reunion.” 
He did not realize that such a solution could apply to only 
about one-third of the city’s families, since in the other two- 
thirds the father gets up in the dark in winter, eats hastily in 
the kitchen in the gray dawn, and is at work from an hour to 
two and a quarter hours before his children have to be at 
school. Or take another local “problem” — ^the deadlock between 
north and south sides of the city in the spring of 1925 over 
daylight saving time; the working class majority overwhelmed 




the measure before the city officials on the plea that in summer 
their small dwellings cool off slowly, often remaining warm 
until after midnight, and that they can ill spare an hour of cool 
early-moming sleep before they must get up to work. The busi- 
ness men, on the other hand, urged the need of daylight time 
because of golf and because standard time put local business at 
a two-hour disadvantage in dealing with Eastern business. Each 
group thought the other unreasonable. 

The rising hours of business and working class differed less 
thirty-five years ago, as early rising was then somewhat more 
characteristic of the entire city. Nowadays one does not find 
doctors keeping seven to nine o’clock morning office hours as 
in 1890. During the eighties retail stores opened at seven or 
seven-thirty and closed at eight or nine, a thirteen-hour day.^ 
About 18^ a six o’clock closing hour, except on Saturdays, 
was tried by a few merchants, and gradually the practice pre- 
vailed. Today stores open at eight or eight-thirty and close at 

Ten hours a day, six days a week, was the standard rhythm 
of work for Middletown industrial workers in 1890.^ In 1914? 
73 per cent, of them, according to the Federal Census, worked 
sixty hours a week or longer. By 1919 offiy 33 cent, 
worked sixty hours or longer, although another 35 per cent, 
worked from fifty-five to sixty hours a week. The coming of 
the now almost universal Saturday half-holiday is the out- 
standing shift in industrial hours of work since 1890. 

Year in and year out, about 300 working men work all night 
and sleep during the day. Periodically, however, a force of 
3,000-4,000 men is either shifted from day work or recruited 
afresh by leading plants to work at night, thus establishing con- 

1 In the leading men’s clothing store in 1890 the hours were 7 a.m. to 10 
p.M. on Monday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, and on Saturday 7 a.m. 
to midnight Stores were frequently open parts of such holidays as Thanks- 
giving and Christmas. 

In 1890 the Middletown jewelry clerks “organized a union . . . and waited 
upon their employers and made known their desire of being off duty at 
7.30 each evening and allowed to attend all ball games.” “We are glad to 
say,” adds the press account, “that, rather than have trouble, the jewelry 
men have acceded to their demands.” 

2 All four of the representative Middletown iron works and the four lead- 
ing wood- working plants listed in the 1891 state Biennial Report had a ten- 
hour day. Among the glass workers, where there was a high degree of or- 
ganization, two plants had a nine-hour day and two a ten-hour day. 



tinuous day and night use of machinery.^ These periods of 
night work continue usually five to six months, after which the 
workers are discharged or shifted to day work. The repercus- 
sion upon home, leisure time, community life, and other activi- 
ties of these periodic dislocations of the rh\thms of living, when 
an}^vhere from several hundred to three or four thousand heads 
of families ''go on night shift,” should be borne in mind; the 
normal relations betw^een husband and wife, children’s cus- 
tomary noisy play around home, family leisure-time activities, 
lodge life, jury duty, civic interest, and other concerns are 
deranged as by the tipping over of one in a long line of domi- 
noes. 'T w^ork nights, judge, and sleep during the day, and I 
haven’t been able to keep in touch with George,” pled a father 
to the judge of the juvenile court in behalf of his son. The fact 
that, w’ith few exceptions, this dislocating factor affects only the 
w^orking class has direct bearing upon the differential concern 
of the two groups for such things as the civic welfare of 
"Magic Middletown.” 

Not only does the accident of membership in one or the 
other of the two main groups in the city determine the number 
of hours w^orked and the liabilit}^ to night work, but it also 
determines to a considerable degree whether one is allowed to 
get a living uninterruptedly year after year or is subject to 
periodic partial or total debarments from these necessary activi- 
ties.^ The most prosperous two-thirds of the business group, 
at a rough estimate, now as in 1890, are virtually never subject 
to interruptions of this kind so long as they do good work, 
while the other third is somewhat subject to cessation of work, 
though to a less extent than the working class. When "times 
were very bad” in 1924 the leading department store laid off 
small groups of clerks alternate weeks without pay. During 
1923 the office force of a leading machine shop plant dropped 

3 Only three times, for five or six months each, in the five years between 
January r, 1920, and January i, 1925, have “times*’ been sufficiently “good” 
in Middletown for this to happen generally throughout the major industries 
of the city. At other times night shifts are put on for short periods to meet 
the needs of individual plants. 

^ The institution of an annual vacation of one or two weeks with pay is 
another point at which the rhythms of work of working man^ and business 
man differ. Among the latter, vacations are today a well-nigh universal 
rule, but no working man gets vacations with pay, save an occasional fore- 
man who may get a single week. Cf. discussion of the growth of the vacation 
habit since 18^ in Ch. XVIII. 



at one time during the year to 79 per cent, of its peak num- 
ber, while the wage-earners declined to 32 per cent, of the 

Among the working class, however, the business device of 
the ‘"shut-down” or “lay-off'' is a recurrent phenomenon. If the 
number of working men employed in seven leading Middletown 
plants ® on June 30, 1920, be taken as 100, the number allowed 
to get a living on December 31, 1921, was sixty-eight; on De- 
cember 31, 1922, ninety-three; on June 30, i 9 ^ 3 j i 
cember 31, 1923, 114; on June 30, 1924, seventy-seven; on 
December 31, 1924, sixty-one; on June 30, 1925, eighty-one.'^ 
The month-by-month record of one of these plants, a leading 
machine shop, during 1923, again taking the number employed 
on June 30, 1920, as 100, was: 






.... 57 

February . . . . 





.... 43 












.... 46 

In one leading plant 1,000 is regarded as the “normal force.” 
When interviewed in the summer of 1924, about 250 men were 
actually getting a living at this plant, though the bosses “think 
of about 550 [of the normal 1,000] as our men.” The other 450 
are floaters picked up when needed. In another large plant the 
number of men employed on December 31, 1923, was 802, 

5 The relative seriousness of *‘bad times” to business and working class 
personnel is revealed in Willford I. King's Employment Hours and Earnings 
in Prosperity and Depression (New York; National Bureau of Economic 
Research, 1923), p. 53 ff., in the estimate for the continental United States 
of the percentage of maximum cyclical decline over the period of indus- 
trial strain from the beginning of 1920 through the first quarter of 1922 in 
the total hours actually worked, as follows: 


having Enterprises Enterprises Total enter- 
less than having 21-100 having over prises of all 
21 employees. employees. loo employees. sizes. 

Commerce and trade .. . 1.279^? 5.81% 9.94% 2.78% 

Retail only 1.31 4,66 10.84 2.75 

All factories 8.21 19.21 38.56 29.97 

Metal and metal prod- 
ucts only 17.89 52.10 52.65 50.25 

In this connection the predominance of metal industries in Middletown 
should be borne in mind. 

® These seven plants were used by a local bank as an index of local em- 
plo3nment in its monthly summaries of local business. 

7 These intervals are uneven because the data were available only for the 
dates given. 



and six months later, June 30, 1924, was 316, but only 205 
of these men worked continuously throughout the entire six 
months with no lay-offs. 

Of the sample of 165 wwking class families for whom data 
on steadiness of work was secured, 72 per cent, of the male 
heads of families lost no time at work in the twelve months of 
1923 when '‘times were good,” another 15 per cent, lost less 
than a month, and 13 per cent, lost a month or more; during 
the first nine months of 1924, throughout the last six of 
which "times were bad,” only 38 per cent, of the 165 lost no 
time, another 19 per cent. lost less than a month, and 43 per 
cent. lost a month or more.® Among the forty families of 
business men interviewed, only one of the men had been un- 
employed at any time during the two years, 1923-24 — ^and that 
was not due to a lay-off.® 

It is difficult to say whether emplo3nnent tends to be more 
or less regular in Middletown today than a generation ago. 
Sharper competition throughout markets that have become na- 
tion-wide, the rise of the new technique of cost-accounting, the 
resulting substantial overhead charges on expensive plant and 
machinery, and the imperturbability of machines in the dog- 
giest of "dog-days” discourage today the easy custom of clos- 
ing down the plant , altogether which flourished among the 
flimsy factories and hand-workers of a generation ago. A char- 
acteristic summer news item in the Middletown Times for 
June 12, 1890, says : "Ninety per cent, of the glass houses in 
the U. S. A. close on Saturday until the first of September.” 
Short shut-downs of two weeks or so at other times in the year 
were not uncommon. And yet, despite modem compulsions to 
maintain at least minimum production, and in fact because of 
such impersonal techniques as cost-accounting, lay-offs have 
become much more automatic than the reluctant personal de- 
cision of a sympathetic employer.^® The sheer increase in the 

8 See Table III. 

® See Appendix on Method for the way in which the families interviewed 
were selected. 

^0 “On the transition to the machine technology . . . the individual work- 
man has been falling into the position of an auxiliap^ factor, nearly into 
that of an article of supply, to be charged up as an item of operating ex- 
penses.” Veblen, The Nature of Peace (New York; Huebsch, 1919), pp. 

Cf. J. L. and Barbara Hammond, The Town Labourer, 1/601832 (I.on- 
don; Longmans, 1920),. especially Chs. L II, and VI. 



size of present-day plants operates to make these periodic in- 
creases and curtailments in working force more obligatory 
when the need for them arises.^^ 

As in the case of the lowering of the old-age deadline, de- 
scribed in Chapter V, the phenomenon of recurrent industrial 
unemplo3nnent assumes totally different aspects as it is viewed 
through the eyes of a business man or of a working man. For 
the dominant manufacturing group, the peremptory little fig- 
ures on the cost sheets require that there shall always be on 
hand enough workers to take care of any fluctuations in busi- 
ness. The condition of there being more men than available 
jobs, though dreaded by the working man, is commonly called 
by his bosses ^^an easier labor market.’’ In March, 1924, when 
the long slump of unemplo>Tnent was commencing and employ- 
ers in other cities ran “want ads.” in the Middletown papers 
offering work, two special delivery letters were laid by the plate 
of the president of the Middletown Advertising Club at one of 
its weekly luncheons, asking the Club to use its influence to sup- 
press such advertisements because they tended to draw unem- 
ployed machinists from town. The president of the club agreed 

The Middletown press in 1890 hailed as “a gigantic concern” a new 
industry which was to have '"when in full operation” 200 hands. The largest 
working group in the city in January, 1891, was 225. In 1923, eleven plants 
each employed more than 300 — three of the eleven employed more than 
1,000, w^hile one of these three regards its ‘‘normal force” as over the 
2,000 mark. 

See N. 5 above regarding the relative impact of “hard times” on enter- 
prises of different sizes. According to King’s evidence, whether owing to 
the fact that “the small employer keeps less accurate accounts,” to the fact 
that “the small employer, being well acquainted with his employees, is so 
much interested in the welfare of the latter that his relationships with them 
are not governed primarily by purely business considerations,” or to other 
factors, the bump tends to hit Uie big enterprises several times as hard as 
the little fellows. 

This business men’s psychology is well illustrated by the following state- 
ment by one of the city’s influential manufacturers : “In 1922 we were so 
nished with orders w^e couldn’t possibly fill them or get enough men here 
in town to carry on, so we had to import some men from Kentucky and 
West Virginia. Our men from our local district here, bom and bred on 
the farms near here, knowing the use of machinery of some sort from their 
boyhood, reliable, steady, we call ‘corn-feds.’ These men we brought in 
from the mountains we called ‘green peas.’ We brought two train loads of 
them down. Some of them learned quickly, and some of them didn’t. Most 
of them have drifted back by now. We figured it cost $75-$200 to train each 
one of them, and there was such a demand for labor about town that they 
didn’t stay with us. They drifted about from shop to shop, and of course 
when the slump came we fired them and kept our old men,” 



that this was ‘'something the Ad. Club certainly ought to 
back/' and the representati%'es of ail papers agreed to suppress 
the advertisements. The sentiment of the club was that it was 
important that plenty of skilled workers be kept in town.^'* 

“People come to the house a great deal and tell me they can’t 
get work/’ remarked the wife of a prominent business man. 
“Of course, I don’t really believe that. I believe that any one 
who really tries can get work of some kind.” This remark ap- 
pears to sum up the philosophy of unemployment of many of 
the business class in Middletown. Others believe, as one out- 
standing business man put it, that “About the only thing that 
might be improved in the condition of working men today 
is unsteady employment. But that cannot possibly be helped. 
An employer cannot give employment to -workmen if he cannot 
sell his goods.” 

To the working men, however, unemployment as a “prob- 
lem” varies from a cloud the size of a man’s hand when “times 
are good” to a black pall in a time of “easy labor market” that 
may overspread all the rest of their lives. It happened that 
times were not good during the late summer and fall of 1924 
when the staff interviewed Middletown families. Over and 
over again, the wives interviewed answered the question, “What 
seems to be the future in your husband’s job?” in terms of : 

“He’s to be laid off Saturday.” 

“He’s just lucky if this job keeps up. He never knows from 
day to day whether his job will be there.” 

“He can’t tell when he’ll be laid off. One day he comes home 
thinking the work is over and then the next day he believes it will 
last a few weeks longer.” 

To the bosses there is no “problem” in the abrupt posting, rarely more 
than a day in advance, of the announcement of a lay-off, or in the absence 
of any machinery for talking over with the men the reasons for the lay- 
off or its probable duration, or in the practice of “hiring at the gate.” 

During the depression of the summer of 1924 much press publicity was 
given to the announcement that a local plant would take on a thousand men 
3 ie following IMonday. The men crowded about the plant gates on the 
appointed day and a total of forty-eight were hired. 

Cf. pp. 37-8 of Shelby M. Harrison’s Public Employment Offices (New 
York; Russell Sage Foundation, 1924) for reasons why employers favor 
hiring at the gate. Cf. also Whiting Williams’ Whafs on the WorkePs 
Mind (New York; Scribner’s, 1921), pp. 6-7, for the worker’s view of this 



For many of them the dread had become an actuality : 

“I know people that have been out of work since June,” one 
woman said in October, “and theyVe almost crazy because of it. 
Maybe if more people understood w’^hat it means something could 
be done about it.’* 

“Not even the foreman knew the lay-off was coming, ’ said 
one quiet, intelligent-looking woman who with her husband had 
been laid off in a leading plant the night before, at the close of the 
first week in December. “Last w^eek the whole plant worked over- 
time every night on straight time pay. A petition asking for more 
wages was circulated by the men, but my husband and two others 
wouldn't sign it because they thought it was no time to ask for a 
raise with so many out of "work. Now we re told the lay-off came 
because of the petition, because orders have stopped coming in. 
We can't figure that out. . . . What'll w^e do ? I don’t know, but 
we must not take the boy out of school if we can any way get 

“He’s awfully blue because his job is gone,” said another wife 

in November. “He’s trying to get work at . He hopes his old 

job will open up again in the spring.” 

Several of these women, all of them having husbands over 
thirty-five, said that their husbands had taken or would want 
work that paid less and had less future if it seemed likely to be 
“steady” and less subject to lay-offs. Steady work appeared to 
be generally valued by these older workers above high wages.^® 

The commonest working class solution of the problem of un- 
employment is to “get another job.” Of the 182 sample work- 
ers for whom data was secured on this point, including 124 
with children of school age, over a quarter (27 per cent.) 
had been with their present employers less than a year, 
over a third (38 per cent.) less than two years, and over 
half (S5 per cent.) less than five years/® This “getting another 

15 cf. Whiting Williams’ statement : ‘‘If there is one thing I have learned 
on my labor travels it is that ‘the job’s the thing.’ Wages are interesting, but 
the job is the axis on which the whole world turns for the workingman. 

^^e See T^bfe lV. These figures do not mean that these men had had no 
un€mplo5rraent during these periods or had not in many cases worked 
temporarily in other plants until their regular jobs “opened up again.” 

Between January i, 1919, and October r, 1924, of 178 men for whom 
these data are tabulable, 46 per cent, had had one job, 20 per cent, two 
jobs, 22 per cent, three Jobs, and the remaining 12 per cent, more than three. 



job*' frequently involves leaving the city: ‘In the summer we 
took to tile Ford and went looking for work/’ “He has a job 

now over in [twenty-five miles away] and likes it so 

much he may stay on there.” 

Failing in finding another chance to get a living, the whole 
family settles down to the siege.^® Of 122 housewives, who 
gave information regarding readjustments occasioned by un- 
employment,^® eighty-three reported unemployment during the 
preceding fifty-seven months. Sixty-eight, the great majority 
of those reporting unemployment, had made changes in their 
routine habits of living to meet the emergency.^® Of these, 

Here again brief fill-in jobs were not counted, provided a man returned to 
his old job when “work opened up.” 

It should be remembered that the interviewers had to rely upon the wife 
for these data in nearly every case, though every effort was made to see 
that she did not omit any pertinent data. 

This migratory tendency which modem industry invites and the Ford 
car enormously facilitates may be expected to have far-reaching influence 
throughout the rest of the workers* lives : e.g., the more frequent moving of 
working class families noted in Ch. IX and the decline in neighborliness and 
intimate friends among the wives noted in Qi. XIX- Cf. the statement by 
Roscoe Pound in Criminal Justice in Cleveland: “Some studies made during 
the war indicate that the moral implications of an increasingly migratory 
laboring population call for serious consideration. Our institutions pre- 
suppose a stable, home-owning, tax-paying population, of which each indi- 
ridual has and feels a personal interest in its legal and political institutions 
and bears his share in the conduct of them. Irregularity and discontinuity of 
employment and consequent migration from city to city, or back and forth 
between city and country, preclude the sort of society for which our institu- 
tions were shaped.” (Cleveland; Cleveland Foundation, 1921; Part VIII), 
pp. 610-11, 

^8 At least two factors make the incidence of xmemployment more difficult 
for the worker today than formerly: (i) The decline of trade unions and 
of neighborhood spirit (cf. Ch. VIII). (2) The extension of the precarious 
habit of leaning the present upon the future by long-term commitments 
to pay for the purchase of a home (cf. Ch. IX), insurance, household ap- 
pliances, education of the children, and so on. To ^ke but the case of 
life insurance : in the sixteen years between 1910 and 1926 the number of 
individual policies in force with one national company in Middletown and 
a portion of the surrounding county increased from 3,800 to 23,000; this 
number should be reduced by approximately 40 cent to get the number 
of policy holders. 

These data are based upon the memory of the housewife; she had no 
opportunity to check up her recollection by talking to her husband. Undoubt- 
edly certain minor lay-offs and times when work was reduced for short 
periods to three or four days a week were overlooked. These figures are 
therefore probably conservative throughout 

20 This does not include cessation of saving and inroads upon accumulated 
savings. If this factor be included, it is probably safe to say that unemploy- 
ment affected the behavior of the entire group- 



47 cut on clothing; 

43 cut on food ; 

27 of the wives worked for pay either at home or away from 

14 of the 60 carrying some form of insurance got behind on 
payments ; 

6 moved to a cheaper home ; 

5 of the 20 having a telephone had it taken out ; 

4 of the 35 with children in high school took a child from school.^^ 

Such comments as the following by some of these housewives 
reflect the derangement of established habits in “bad times’" : 

As touching savings, “We had been saving to buy a home but 
lost all our savings paying rent while he was laid off.’" “We had 
to use up all our savings to keep going.” “We lost both our auto 
and our house. We had paid $334.00 on the auto and had just a 
little over a hundred to pay. We had been paying on the house a 
little over a year.” “My husband has just gone everywhere for 
work. We would have been out of debt now if he hadn’t been 
out. It seems like a person just can’t save. We started to buy a 
house a couple of years ago and his company would have paid the 
first payment, but the very next day he got his arm broke. I never 
plan nothing any more.” “We haven’t lost our life insurance yet. 
Last year we had to let a thousand-dollar policy go when he was 

As touching shelter. “We don’t know where the rent for this 
month is coming from. We’re out of coal, too.” “We have cut 
down all we can on food and the phone is the next thing to go. I 
am not strong enough to wash as I used to when he was laid ofl. 
He hates to see the phone go. It’s the only way we hear from our 

As touching food, “Now they have a new man in the grocery 
and we’re afraid he won’t allow us to charge things so long. We 
had a $60.00 grocery bill when he went back to work in 1922.” 
“We get on the cheapest we can. Our living expenses are never 
more than $5.00 a week” [family of five]. “We have been buying 
no fresh milk this year, using oidy canned milk” [a family includ- 
ing two boys age seven and nine]. “We just live as close as we 
can all the time. I tell the children if they get a little candy for 
Qiristmas this year they’ll be lucky; they haven’t had anything 

21 These changes did not usually come singly, and the families involved in 
the above categories therefore overlap. 



but clothes and things they absolutely need for the last two or 
three years.’’ ‘AVe have cut our food all we can and have beans 
and potatoes two times a day with about $2.00 worth of meat 
scattered through the week. I don’t know vrhat we’ll do if there 
isn’t work soon.” "‘Last winter our grocery bill ran eight or nine 
dollars a week. Now it is five or six dollars, partly because we 
trade at a cheaper place and partly because we’re economizing.” 

As touching leisure time, "T haven’t been able to afford a movie 
show since January” [ten months]. 

The forced choices during times of unemployment reveal 
sharply the things some of these working class people live by : 

A woman wLo had just returned to the store a new winter coat 
because her husband had lost his job said she planned to cut down 
on “picture shows” — “but I’ll never cut on gas! I’d go without a 
meal before I’d cut down on using the car.” 

Another woman said : ""I’ll give up my home last. A friend of 
mine belongs to several clubs and won’t resign from any of 
them even though her husband has been laid off three months. 
She says she’ll give up her home before her clubs.” 

One woman spoke for many others when she said : "‘We’ll give 
up everything except our insurance. We just can’t let that go.” 
The head of a local insurance company reported that unemploy- 
ment has relatively little effect upon insurance policies. Of the 100 
working class families for whom income distribution on certain 
items was secured, all but seven reported money spent for life in- 
surance in annual amounts ranging from $2.25 to $350.00.^2 

To Middletown as a whole in its corporate group capacity, 
unemployment as a ""problem” virtually does not exist. At most 
it becomes a matter for privately supported charity to cope 
with. In the extreme bad times of the winter of 1921-22 when 
local unemployment overwhelmed these charitable agencies, a 
supplementary fund of $40,000 was raised by popular subscrip- 
tion to be distributed in doles. And yet it was in February of 
this winter, when local hardship was most acute, that the City 
Council voted to discontinue support of the highly successful 

22 See Table VL 



tax-supported free employment office launched during the War 
and in operation for two and one-half years.*® 

The mobility afforded by new modes of transportation com- 
bines with these periodic waves of employment, unemploy- 
ment, and reemployment to diminish the tendency for the 
workers in a given factory to live together immediately about 
the plant. Everybody in Middletown in 1890 got to work by 
walking, and workers tended to settle in the immediate neigh- 
borhood of a given factory; as a new factory was located on 
the outskirts of the community it formed a magnet drawing 
new dwellings close about it.*"* Today, when one gets about the 
city and the country surrounding it by bicycle, fifteen-minute 
street-car service, regular bus service, and five interurban lines, 
and approximately two out of every three families in the city 
own a passenger automobile,*' decentralization of residence is 
apparent. A check of the residences of all workers in the shops 
of three local plants, a total of 2,171, showed that 28 per cent, 
lived within one-half mile of their places of work and 55 per 
cent, less than a mile away, while 45 per cent. lived a mile or 
more away ; 20 per cent, of the men lived outside the city and 
from three to forty-five miles away,®® and 14 per cent, of the 
women lived from three to nineteen miles away. Two of these 

23 The failure of the Council to vote the $1,500 needed for the upkeep of 
the office caused its abandonment. Both Chamber of Commerce and Trades 
Council had favored the employment office and a leading local paper called 
it *'one of the best investments ever made by the city and county.” One 
powerful councilman, connected with a leading industry, is said to have led 
the opposition to the bureau, and is quoted as declaring the office of “no 
assistance whatever to the manufacturers or to the laboring man. If a man 
wants work in this city he can get it without going through the employment 
office.” The office was abandoned and part of the director’s salary left un- 
paid, although the State Attorney General ruled that the city was liable 
for it. 

This incident affords an instance of the way much of the group business 
is conducted in Middletown and of the relative inarticulateness and help- 
lessness of the group in the face of a powerful minority. The weaker of the 
two Middletown dailies called in vain for a frank statement of the nature of 
the “nigger in the woodpile” from “certain persons” who have made “a 
protracted effort ... to end the official existence of the bureau.” 

2^E.g., the following from the local press in 1890: “Work has commenced 
on the Westside Glass Works. The location of this factory at Westside has 
caused a great demand for residences in that vicinity.” 

23 Cf. Ch. XVIII for discussion of ownership and use of automobiles. 

26 Five men went back and forth together in an automobile from a city of 
the same size forty-five miles distant. 

Distances up to three miles were figured “as the crow flies” and are there- 
fore somewhat underestimated. (See Table V, N. 2.) 


plants are old industries that have been in iliddletown since gas 
boom days, while the third is a modern machine shop, located in 
Middletown more than a decade, of the sort that today domi- 
nates the city’s industrial life. In the latter only 19 percent, lived 
within one-half mile and only 43 per cent, within a mile, while 
57 per cent, live over a mile aw^ay, and 29 per cent, of the males 
lived three to forty-five miles away, the number of women em- 
ployed being negligible.^^ 

This trend towards decentralization of workers* dwellings 
means that instead of a family’s activities in getting a living, 
making a home, play, church-going, and so on, largely overlap- 
ping and bolstering each other, one’s neighbors may work at 
shops at the other end of the city, while those with whom one 
works may have their homes and other interests an3rwhere from 
one to two-score miles distant. 

Jvleanwhile, in season and out, regardless of such vicissitudes 
as unemployment, eveiy^body w^ho gets a living in Middletown 
is theoretically in process of ^'getting there”; the traditional 
social philosophy assumes that each person has a large degree 
of freedom to climb the ladder to ever wider responsibility, in- 
dependence, and money income.^® As a matter of fact, in six 
Middletown plants employing an average of 4,240 workers 
during the first six months of 1923 there were ten vacancies 
for foremen over the period of twenty-one months from Jan- 

27 See Table V, These addresses represent the summer force. In the 
machine shop, the bulk of whose employees require little training, the winter 
force is heavily recruited from farmers. (Cf._ King, op. cit., p. 91, for the 
reason agricultural labor flocks to the machine shops.) In response to a 
protest from local labor that they discriminated against city labor in the 
winter in favor of this cheaper-priced farm labor, Middletown manufac- 
turers informed the Chamber of Commerce that they “consider [the] county 
a unit and not the city,” The ease with which farmers can “when times are 
good” get work in machine shops and the general diffusion of Ford cars 
and surfaced roads is prompting some workers to return to small farms, 
preferably midway between Middletown and another small industrial city, 
where a garden can help out on food and work be drawn from either city. 

Cf. in Ch. IX the data on the housing mobility of the working class 
families interviewed. 

28 Thirty-four per cent of 241 high school boys answered “true” to the 
extreme statement, “It is entirely the fault of a man himself if he does 
not succeed,” while 16 per cent, more were “uncertain,” and 49 per cent, 
thought the statement “false,” the final i per cent not answering. Forty-five 
per cent, of 315 girls thought the statement “true,” while 9 per cent, were 
“uncertain,” 44 per cent marked it “false,” and 2 per cent, did not answer. 

29 Average of total payrolls as of December 31, 1922, and June 30, 1923, 
less estimated averages of 600 foremen and office workers. 



tiary i, 1923, to October i, 1924.®® This means that in a year 
and three-fourths there was a chance for one man in 424 to be 
promoted.®^ The total number of men estimated by the plants as 
of sufficient experience on January i, 1923, to be eligible for 
consideration for promotion to foremanship was 531. Of this 
picked group one man in fifty-three got his chance in twenty- 
one months.®® 

The chance of promotion as it appears to the working class 
may be glimpsed from the answers of the wives in 105 of the 
124 sample families to the question, '‘What seems to be the 
future in your husband’s job?” It was a time of considerable 
local unemplo3nnent. Ten of the 105 husbands were already 
out of work, and “future” meant hope for the naked chance to 
begin getting a living again at an3dhing; for twenty-two other 
wives future meant nothing beyond the possible date when 
“the mister” would be laid off — for two of them this future 
was no further off than “next Saturday” ; to four others the 
future meant predominantly a fear of the old-age dead line; 
to eleven others a “good” future meant, “He’ll probably have 
steady work” ; nineteen others were hopeful in regard to their 
husbands’ work and their chances in it; while the remaining 
thirty-nine faced the future with no expressed hope of getting 
ahead. Of these thirty-nine, thirty-two, while not at the mo- 
ment out of work or driven by an active fear of unempIo3mient, 
voiced keen discouragement. Such answers as the following 
from this last group, to whom, with those unemployed or 
fearing a lay-off, the future shows no outlet toward greater 

30 One of the six plants reported vacancies over only eighteen months, 
from Jannai^, 1923, through June, 1924. 

The condition of the Middletown labor market during these eighteen 
months can be seen in its setting from the index numbers of employment in 
seven leading plants given earlier in this chapter. 

31 The job of assistant foreman is not considered here, as it apparently 
counts for little. Promotion to a foremanship is the real step up. 

32 Not only were promotions infrequent, but during these twenty-one 
months a number of foremen were temporarily demoted to the ranks when 
forces were reduced, e.g., night shifts abandoned. 

R- R. Lutz found that in the course of a year only one man in seventy- 
seven in a group of 618 eligible men in the metal trades in Cleveland had a 
chance of promotion. The Metal Trades (Cleveland; Cleveland Education 
Survey, 1916), p. 100. 

33 In one of these cases here counted as ''hopefuP the wife said : “It"s 
hard to say. There's not much opportunity for advancement but he is read- 
ing trade papers and studying his trade all the time to be able to take 
advantage of any opportunity that comes.” 


security or recognition, reflect an outlook on life that prob- 
ably conditions profoundly all their other activities : 

(^Husband a machinist, age thirty-eight.) “Well, he’s been doing 
the same thing over and over for fifteen years, hoping he’d get 
ahead, and he’s never had a chance; so I don’t suppose he ever 

{Husband a machinist, age twenty-six.) “There’s nothing ahead 
where he’s at and there’s nothing to do about it.” 

{Husband a machine-tender, age forty-six.) “There won’t never 
be anything for him as long as he stays where he is and I don’t 
know where else he can go.” 

Husband a foreman, age thirty-eight.) “He’s been there nine 
years and there’s no chance of promotion. The work is so hard 
he’s always exhausted. He wants to get back on a farm. He’s 
been lucky so far in not being laid off, but we’re never sure.” 

{Husband a factory laborer, age thirty.) “He’ll never get any 
better job. He’ll be lucky if they keep him on this one.” 

And yet the chance of becoming a foreman, small as it is, 
would appear to be somewhat better than it was a generation 
ago. The experience of individual plants, cited below, suggests 
that foremen have increased more rapidly than the num- 
ber of workmen. On the other hand, increasing technological 
complexity and the resulting tendency to insert college-trained 
technical men into a force between foremen and owners appear 
to hinder a workman’s progress beyond a foremanship more 
than formerly. 

New technical developments such as the automobile and mul- 
tiplied uses of electricity have opened new doors to some work- 
ing men, enabling them to become owners of garages, filling 
stations, or electrical shops. 'The sharp increase in size, com- 
plexity, and cost of the modern machine-equipped shop, how- 
ever, makes the process of Hunching out for oneself as a small 
manufacturer somewhat more difficult than a generation ago. 

In general, the greater accessibility of those on the lower busi- 
ness rungs to sources of credit through lodge, club, church, and 
social contacts would seem to make fresh opportunities through 
the starting of a. small industrial shop, retail store, or business 
of their own easier for them than for the working class. No 



direct study was made of the chance for promotion among the 
business group, and the local sentiment is such that one may 
not talk to business men and their wives about their personal 
advancement as one may to the working class. Close contact 
with Middletown’s small shopkeepers and clerks as well as with 
the more powerful members of the business group throughout 
nearly a year and a half, however, yielded a distinct impression 
that psychologically the business families of the city tend to 
live, in the main, not on a plain stretching unbroken to the 
horizon, but on ground sloping upward, however gently. Con- 
tact with the working class, supplemented by interviews with 
the sample of wives and some of their husbands regarding the 
latter’s chances of advancement, brought an equally clear im- 
pression that psychologically the outlook of the working class 
is somewhat flatter. The new rush of the children of the busi- 
ness man to college and of the working man’s children to high 
school and college is increasing the vertical mobility of the 
children by offering all manner of short-cuts to the young 
man or woman with an education, but once established in a 
particular job, the limitations fixing possible range of advance- 
ment seem to be narrower for an industrial worker. 

Vocational accidents are yet another differential accompani- 
ment of getting a living for the two groups. Such accidents are 
practically unknown among the business class. For an ave:rage 
of 7,900 working men and women in the thirty-six factories 
constituting the industrial population of the city during the first 
half of 1923,®^ however, 824 accidents serious enough to in- 
volve a loss of time from work were recorded during this six- 
month period. If this period can be taken as representative, 
roughly one in each five persons of the working class employed 
in factories in Middletown has an accident serious enough to 
make him stop getting a living for a while each year. Fifty- 
seven per cent, of these injured workers lost less than eight 

Payrolls of 7,743 and 9,655 on December 31, 1922, and June 30, 1923, 
respectively, were averaged, and since none of the accidents recorded con- 
cerned a member of the office staff, an estimated total of 799 office employees 
was deducted from the payroll average of 8,699, the above figure of 7,900 
resulting. A few very small industrial plants for whom records were not 
available are not^ included in the thirty-six above, also such groups of 
workers as the building trades, a few railroad mechanics, and other workers 
not in factories. The records of accidents were taken directly from the cards 
in the files of the State Industrial Board which administers the State Work- 
men’s Compensation Law. 


days, 13 per cent, lost eight days to two weeks, i per cent two 
to three weeks, and the remaining 2g per cent, three weeks or 
more. Three of the 824 injured during these six months w^ere 
killed, one other was expected to die at the time the figures -were 
tabulated, two lost one eye and three lost permanent partial 
use of an eye, three lost a hand and six partial use of a hand, 
eight lost a finger and sixteen partial use of a finger, and so on. 

We can only infer a trend toward fewer accidents. In view of 
the fact that in the year ending September 30, 1920, there w^ere 
only 922 amputations out of a total of 42,994 accidents re- 
ported throughout the entire state, numerous records like the 
following in the Middletown press in 1890 suggest a very dif- 
ferent frequency: In one leading plant, employing about 200 
hands, three men were injured in one day in three different 
accidents — one losing a hand, a second having a foot mashed, 
and a third losing a finger. The last-named is reported as ‘^an- 
other to lose a finger in the machinery where no less than five 
have been nipped off in the past month or so.’’ A superintendent 
in a leading plant employing about 200 men in 1890, when 
asked if working conditions then gave rise to a good many acci- 
dents, exclaimed: 

‘T should say they did ! We kept a horse and buggy busy all 
the time taking men from the plant to the doctor.” 

"'Not literally, of course?” 

“No, not literally, but we used to have one almost every day.” 

The compulsory presence in each plant today of a first-aid kit 
undoubtedly reduces infections ; hernias are fewer, as there is 
less heavy lifting; plants are better built and aired, and such 
conditions, conducive to pneumonia and rheumatism, as those 
described by a glass worker in 1890, are far less common: “We 
worked dripping with sweat, burning up on the side facing 
the pots and freezing on the other side in winter in the draughty 
old plants.” On the other hand the speed of the iron man has 
brought new health hazards all its own — ^nerve strain due to 
noise and speed, new types of localized ailments due to special- 
ization of activity curtailing movement in many cases from 
the larger body segments to a few small muscles used over and 

35 One plant has a doctor m attendance, a second a graduate nurse but no 
doctor, two others have practical nurses, another a matron but no nurse, and 
a number use the local Visiting Nurses’ Association, the company paying for 
the service in each case. All this is new since 1890. 



over. Two under-officials in the packing- room of a large glass 
plant agreed in saying that “there have been several nerv^ous 
breakdowns since the installation of the belt conveyor bringing 
the jars to the women packers/’ And one added, “This system 
may be good for the plant, but it certainly isn’t good for the 
girls.” . 

Prior to 1897, when the first factory" inspector was appointed 
in the state, the workman carried the full burden of accident 
under the common law principles of “assumed risk,” “contrib- 
utory negligence,” and the “fellow ser\^ant” doctrine. In 1915 
the trend towards group participation in such matters even- 
tuated in a State Workmen’s Compensation Law under which 
the industrial plant, and thus ultimately the general public, bear 
a share of the burden.®® 

This process of the socialization of accident hazard is a phase 
of a larger trend towards impersonality in industrial operations 
in Middletown. Under the existing type of corporate ownership 
the presidents of three of the seven largest Middletown indus- 
trial plants today reside in other states, and two of the three 
plants are controlled by directors few of whom have ever even 
been in Middletown. This wide separation between a plant and 
the real authority over it combines with the increasing extent 
and complexity of the units of operation and the introduction 
of technically trained personnel to make it, in general, farther 
from the “floor” of a Middletown shop to the “office” today 
than a generation ago. Thus one plant whose sixty men in 1890 
were officered by a president, a secretary who was also the chief 
engineer, a superintendent, and no foremen, today has for a 
force less than three times as large, a president, a vice-presi- 
dent (both largely inactive), a treasurer and general manager, 
a secretary who is also chief engineer, a superintendent, assist- 
ant superintendent, and three foremen. A second plant whose 
200 men in 1890 were officered by a president, a vice-president 

The jtmgle of conflicting elements in a ‘‘social problem’^ is reflected in 
this case by two local situations: (i) The situation described in Ch. V in 
which the adoption of casualty insurance has led in one large plant to a 
policy of “firing’" all employees at sixty. (2) The fact that the company 
which is perhaps doing more than any other among the largest half-dozen 
in the city to care for its aging workers was reported by the State Indus- 
trial Board as “not in good standing”; this company, owned and operated 
by public-spirited citizens, had in 1925, according to the State Board, been 
carrying its own risk for three and a half years without the legal permission 
of the Board. 



who was also general manager, a secretary and treasurer, and 
tw’O foremen, is operated today, %vith six times the original 
staff of workers, by a president, a vice-president and general 
manager, a treasurer, an assistant secretary-, an assistant treas- 
urer (largely inactive), an auditor, two superintendents, and 
thirty foremen. A third plant, a machine shop not locally owned 
and new since 1890, has a staff of 800 directed by a president 
(living out of the city), a resident vice-president who is also 
general manager, a second vice-president (inactive), a secre- 
tary, a comptroller, a factory manager, a general superintend- 
ent, three division superintendents, and tw^enty-five foremen. 

More than one manufacturer said that he was no longer able 
to know his working force and their problems as he used to. 
One gains an impression of closer contact between many man- 
agers and their workers thirty-five years ago; we read in the 
press of 1890 of a plant closing down and owners and 176 
workmen attending the funeral of one of the workers. On an- 
another occasion the management, unable to dismiss the force 
for a day at the county fair, ordered into the plant one hundred 
pounds of taffy from the fair grounds. Yet another old-time 
employer when he sold his plant a few years ago stipulated in 
his contract with the purchasers that the latter were to take 
over the entire force and keep all employees long enough to 
learn their w'orth before discharging any of them. This same 
man is reported to have sent $500 to each of his foremen when 
he sold out, and he endowed a room at the local hospital for 
his old workers and their families. 

A few Middletown industrial plants make an attempt to 
bridge the gap between shop and office by such devices as shop 
committees and short term training groups, including lectures 
on engineering and metallurgy by extension lecturers from the 
state university. One factory has a safety committee and an- 
other a nominal “council of foremen,” with an appointed head. 
The character of these groups appears in the exclamation of one 
leading manufacturer, representative in this respect of the en- 
tire group, when asked about his “shop committee”: “You 
don't mean collective bargaining or anything of that sort, I 
hope? We're running this plant and want no mistake about that. 
We won't tolerate any shop councils or anything of that sort.” 
This plant is reported on reliable authority to have “thrown all 
sorts of obstructions in the way of the insurance people getting 



together with their foremen to talk over safety means in the 
plant.” Personnel and welfare managers, appointed by four 
plants, occasionally exercise a personal oversight of the work- 
ers’ problems; in one prominent plant, however, the kind of 
personnel adjustment work done is reflected by the emphatic 
statement of the personnel manager: “If a man is fired by a 
foreman, he stays fired. A thing a man does once in one de- 
partment he’ll do again in another.” 

These various devices, together with the carrying by at least 
three plants of a blanket life-insurance policy for all employees, 
the passage of the State Workmen’s Compensation Law, and 
the appointment of state factor}’ inspectors, represent tenden- 
cies to diminish somewhat the disparity between the accompa- 
niments of getting a living for the working class and for the 
business group. But, while these new devices are attempting to 
solve the “social problems” involved in getting a living, the 
long arm of the fob in this swiftly changing culture is touching 
the lives of workers as well as business class with new problems. 

Chapter VIII 


One emerges from the offices, stores, and factories of Mid- 
dletown asking in some bewilderment why all the able-bodied 
men and many of the women devote their best energies for long 
hours day after day to this driving activity seemingly so foreign 
to many of the most powerful impulses of human beings. Is 
all this expenditure of energy necessary to secure food, cloth- 
ing, shelter, and other things essential to existence? If not, 
precisely what over and beyond these subsistence necessaries is 
Middletown getting out of its work ? 

For very many of those who get the living for Middletown 
the amount of robust satisfaction they derive from the actual 
performance of their specific jobs seems, at best, to be slight. 
Among the business men the Icudos accruing to the eminent in 
getting a living and to some of their minor associates yields a 
kind of incidental satisfaction; the successful manufacturer 
even tends today to supplant in local prestige and authority the 
judge, preacher, and “professor’" of thirty-five to forty years 
ago. But for the working class both any satisfactions inherent 
in the actual daily doing of the job and the prestige and kudos 
of the able worker among his associates would appear to be 

The demands of the iron man for swiftness and endurance 
rather than training and skill have led to the gradual abandon- 
ment of the apprentice-master craftsman system; one of the 
chief characteristics of Middletown life in the nineties, this 
system is now virtually a thing of the past.^ The master me- 
chanic was the aristocrat among workmen of 1890 — ^“one of 

^Less than i per cent, of those listed by the 1920 Census as engaged in 
manufacturing and mechanical industries in Middletown were apprentices. 
Of 429 workers in Middletown wood, glass, and iron and steel industries in 
1891, 51 per cent, were apprentices or had served apprenticeships.^ If the 
laborers be excluded from the group, 64 per cent, of the remaining 342 
either were apprentices or had bera apprenticed, and, taking the iron and steel 




the nobl^t of God’s cr^tures,” as one of them put it. But 
even in the nineties machinery was beginning to undermine the 
monopolistic status of his skill; he was beginning to feel the 
ground shifting under his feet. The State Statistician recorded 
uneasy protests of men from all over the State.® Today all that 
is left of the four-year apprentice system among 9,000 workers 
in the manufacturing and mechanical industries is three or four 
score apprentices scattered through the building and molding 
trad^.® “It’s 'high speed steel’ and specialization and Ford cars 
that’s hit the machinist’s union,” according to a skilled Middle- 
town worker. “You had to know how to use the old carbon steel 
to keep it from gettin’ hot and spoilin’ the edge. But this 'high 
speed steel’ and this new 'stelite’ don’t absorb the heat and are 
harder than carbon steel. You can take a boy fresh from the 
farm and in three days he can manage a machine as well as I 
can, and I’ve been at it twenty-seven years.” 

With the passing of apprenticeship the line between skilled 
and unskilled worker has become so blurred as to be in some 
shops almost non-existent. The superintendent of a leading 
Middletown machine shop says, “Seventy-five per cent, of our 
force of 800 men can be taken from farm or high school and 
trained in a week’s time.” In the glass plant whose shift in 
processes is noted in Qiapter VI, 84 per cent, of the tool-using 
personnel, exclusive of foremen, require one month or less of 
training, another 4 per cent, not more than six months, 6 per 

plants and the glass houses separately, this percentage mounts to 79 per cent, 
and 70 per cent, respectively. These figures must be used cautiously, since 
the manner of selecting the sample of 429 workers is not stated. {Fourth 
Biennial Report of [the State] Department of Statistics^ i8gi-2, pp. 57, 130, 
3 ^ 7 - ) 

Cf- in Chapter V the discussion of the tendency of young workers to 
displace the older master craftsmen. 

2 “It is getting harder to find employment at molding every year.*' “Ma- 
^inery and specialty men are used in large establishments altogether. I think 
in about twenty years a mechanic will be a scarce article in this country.” 
“Men are put in as master mechanics who could not build a wheelbarrow. 
. . . Any one can do one thing over and over, so he is Just put on a machine 
at $1.00, or perhaps a day/* [Italics ours.] (^Fourth Biennial Report^ 

1891-2, pp. 26-41.) 

^ ®The Personnel Department of a leading local automobile parts plant 
listed but four apprentices (all in the tool room) among the more than 2,000 
employee on their “normal force.” Another plant listed only two apprentices 
(alk> in the tool room) in a normal force of 1,000, 



cent, a year, and the remaining 6 per cent, three years.** Fotm- 
diy- workers have not lost to the iron man as heavily as ma- 
chinists, but even here the trend is marked. In Middletown's 
leading foundry^ in the early nineties, 47 per cent, of the work- 
ers (including foremen) had three to six years’ training. This 
trained group today is half as great (24 per cent.) and 60 per 
cent, of ail the castings produced are made by a group of new- 
comers w^ho cast with the help of machines and require only a 
fortnight or so of training. 

you think the man who runs a complicated machine takes 
pride in his work and gets a feeling of proprietorship in his ma- 
chine?” a responsible executive in charge of personnel in a large 
machine shop was asked. 

‘'No, I don’t,” was his ready reply. "There’s a man who’s ground 
diameters on gears here for fifteen years and done nothing else. 
It’s a fairly highly skilled job and takes more than six months to 
learn. But it’s so endlessly monotonous 1 That man is dead, just 
dead ! And there’s a lot of others like him, and I don’t know what 
to do for them.” 

"What,” asked the questioner, "do you think most of the men in 
the plant are working for? — ^to own a car, or a home, or just to 
keep their heads above water?” 

"They’re just working. They don’t know what for. They’re just 
in a rut and keep on in it, doing the same monotonous work every 
day, and wondering when a slump will come and they will be 
laid off.” 

“How much of the time are your thoughts on your job?” an 
alert young Middletown bench molder was asked. 

"As long as there happens to be any new problem about the 
casting I’m making, I’m thinking about it, but as soon as ever I 
get the hang of the thing there isn’t 25 per cent, of me paying 
attention to the job.” 

The shift from a system in which length of service, crafts^ 
manship, and authority in the shop and social prestige ^ong 
one’s peers tended to go together to one which, in the main, de- 
mands little of a worker’s personality save rapid, habitual reac- 
tions and an ability to submerge himself in the performance of 
a few routinized easily learned movements seams to have wiped 

^Nearly half the three-year group are carpenters and plumbers, i.e., not 
primarily factory workers but members of the strongly organized building 



oat many of the satisfactions that formerly accompanied the 
job. Middletown^s shops are full of men of whom it may be 
said that “there isn’t 25 per cent, of them paying attention to 
the job.” And as they leave the shop in the evening, “The work 
of a modem machine-tender leaves nothing tangible at the end 
of the day’s work to which he can point with pride and say, 
T did that — it is the result of my own skill and my own 
effort.’ ” 

The intangible income accruing to many of the business 
group derives in part from such new devices as membership in 
Rotary and other civic clubs, the Chamber of Commerce, 
Business and Professional Women’s Club, and the various 
professional clubs. ^ But among the working class not only have 
no such new groups arisen to reward and bolster their work, 
but the once powerful trade unions have for the most part either 
disappeared or persist in attenuated form. 

By the early nineties Middletown had become “one of the 
best organized cities in the United States.”® By 1897, thirty 
“locals” totaling 3,766 members were affiliated with the A. F. 
of L. and the city vied with Detroit and other cities as a labor 
convention city. In 1899 the first chapter of a national women’s 
organization, the Women’s Union Label League, was launched 
in Middletown. At this time organized labor formed one of the 
most active coordinating centers in the lives of some thousands 
of Middletown working class families, touching their getting- 
a-living, educational, leisure-time, and even in a few cases re- 
ligious activities. On the getting-a-Iiving sector the unions 
brought tangible pressure for a weekly pay law, standardized 
wage scales, factory inspection, safety devices and other things 
regarded as improvements, and helped in sickness or death, 
while crowded mass meetings held in the opera house collected 
large sums for the striking workers in Homestead and else- 
where. A special Workingmen’s Library and Reading Room,^ 
with a paid librarian and a wide assortment of books, was much 
frequented. Undoubtedly the religious element in the labor 
movement of this day was missed by many, but a Middletown 

®For discussion of these groups see Ch, XIX. 

« From a letter .from the Secretary of the Glass Bottle Blowers’ Associa- 
tion of the U. S. Canada, Sept. 27, 1924. A member of the executive 
board of this Association, who came to Middletown in 1893, says the city was 
“next to Rochester, N. Y., the best organized town in the country.” 

^ Cf . Chapter XVII. 



old-timer still refers enthusiastically to the Knights of Labor 
as a ‘‘grand organization’’ with a “fine ritual,” and a member 
of both iron and glass unions during the nineties is emphatic 
regarding the greater importance of the ceremonial aspects of 
the unions in those days, particularly when new members were 
received, as compared with the bald meetings of today. As cen- 
ters of leisure time the unions ranked among the important 
social factors in the lives of a large number of workers. Such 
items as these appear in the Middletown press all through the 
nineties : 

A column account of the Ball and Concert given by Midland 
Lodge No. 20, Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Work- 
ers in Shirk’s Hall, described it as “the largest event of its kind 
ever given in [Middletown] or the Gas Belt . . . 1,200 to 1,500 

An account of the installation of officers and banquet of the 
Painters’ and Decorators’ Union records the presence of 200 vis- 
itors, including wives and children. A “fine literary program was 
rendered.” The Chief of Police was the guest of honor, and the ex- 
president and secretary of the Middletown Trades Council spoke. 
Nearly every member of the police force was present. The hall 
was decorated with American flags. There was singing, and the 
new invention, the gramophone, was featured. After the literary 
program came dancing. 

“The Cigar Makers’ ‘Blue Label’ nine played a very hotly con- 
tested game with union barbers’ nine yesterday [Sunday] p.m,” 

“Yesterday p.m. [Sunday] the Bakers met at Hiunmel’s Hall on 
invitation of Aug. Waick, our president, who set up a keg and 
lunch. We had a meeting, installed officers, then a goc^ time.” 

Labor Day, a great day in the nineties, is today barely 

From the end of the nineties such laconic reports as “Strike 
defeated by use of machinery” mark increasingly the failing 

s In 1891 the entire city participated in the first Labor Day celebration — 
commencing at 4 a.m. with an “artillery signal of forty-fonr rounds” and 
proceeding throughout a crowded day of bands, parade, greased pole, bicycle 
races in the street, pie-eating contest, reading of Declaration of Independ- 
ence, two orations, greased pig, baseball, dancing all day, to a grand finale 
of fireworks at the fair grounds. But today the parade has been abandoned 
entirely. In 1923 an effort was made to draw a crowd to hear a speaker, 
free ice cream being used as an inducem^t, but in 1924 no ceremonies 
were even attempted. 



status of organized labor in Middletown. According to the 
s^retary of one national union, “the organized labor move- 
ment in [Middletown] does not compare with that of 1890 as 
one to one hundred.” ® The city’s civic clubs boast of its being 
an “open shop town.” 

The social function of the union has disappeared in this day 
of movies and automobile, save for sparsely attended dances 
at Labor Hall. The strong molders’ union, e.g., has to compel 
attendance at its meetings by making attendance at one or the 
other of the two monthly meetings compulsory under a penalty 
of a dollar fine. There is no longer a Workingmen’s Librapr or 
any other educational activity. Multiple lodge memberships, 
occasional factory “mutual welfare associations,” the diffusion 
of the habit of carrying life insurance, socialized provision of 
workmen’s compensation, and the beginning of the practice in 
at least three factories of carrying group life-insurance for all 
workers, are slowly taking over the insurance function per- 
formed by the trade unions. Of the 100 working class fam- 
ilies for whom income distribution was secured, only eleven 
contributed anything to the support of labor unions ; amounts 
contributed ranged from $18.00 to $60.00. 

Likewise, public opinion is no longer with organized labor. 
In the earlier period a prominent Middletown lawyer and the 
superintendent of schools addressed an open meeting of the 
Knights of Labor, and the local press commended the “success 
of the meeting of this flourishing order.” When Samuel Gom- 

^ From a letter from the Secretary of the Glass Bottle Blowers’ Associa- 
tion of the United States and Canada, September 27, 1924. 

Numerically at least this is an overstatement, though it may reflect the 
power of the organized group in the community in the two periods. In 1893 
there were 981 union members in Middletown, as against 815 in 1924, when 
the city was two or three times as large. Some of the present total are aging 
workers who keep up old union affiliations for the sake of insurance benefits. 
The building trades, typographical workers, pattern makers, and molders 
are still well organized, though the first are feeling the competition of non- 
union workers from outlying small towns who invade the town daily in their 
Fords, while already, as pointed out above, in a leading foundry 60 per 
cent, of the castings are made by non-union men trained in a fortnight. 

Sickness, death, and old-age benefits are with ' many the sole reason 
for membership in working class lodges today. Mooseheart and Moosehaven, 
two national ‘‘homes” for children and the aged maintained by the na- 
tioi^ order of Moose, are popular in Middletown and offer advantages 
which only a few of the older and richer unions, inaccessible to the great 
mass of local workers, can approach. 

Cf. discussion of lodges in Ch. XIX. 



pers came to town in ninety-seven he was dined in the mayor's 
home before addressing the great crowd at the opera house. 
The press carried daily items agitating for stricter local en- 
forcement of the weekly pay law, or urging public support of 
union solicitations for funds for union purposes, or calling 
speeches at labor mass-meetings ‘Very able and enjoyable ad- 
dresses/' The proceedings of the Glass Workers' Convention 
in Baltimore in 1890 were reported in full on the first page. 
Such a note as this was common : “During the last few months 
there have been organized in this city several trade organiza- 
tions and labor unions . . . and much good has resulted there- 
from." At a grand Farmers and Knights of Labor picnic in 
1890, “a perfect jam, notwithstanding the rain," the speaker 
“ably denounced trusts. Standard Oil, etc.," according to the 
leading paper. The largest men's clothing firm presented a union 
with a silk parade-banner costing nearly $100.^^ Today the 
Middletown press has little that is good to say of organized 
labor.^^ The pulpit avoids such subjects, particularly in the 
churches of the business class, and when it speaks it is apt to 
do so in guarded, equivocal terms.^^ A prevalent attitude among 

It should not be inferred that the workers had things all their own 
•way. Strikes and lock-outs were frequent, and the boycott was freely and 
effectively used against local business men who sold non-union goods. 
diary of one elderly merchant complains that “a great many were com- 
pelled to show a left-handed sneaking approval.” But the significant point 
is that labor was powerful and class-conscious, and the workers apparently 
gained added stature in many of their vital activities from their member- 
ship in this powerful union movement. 

One of the two daily papers spoke editorially on one recent occasion 
of unions as ^*fine things for those who work with their hands” to: 
went on to decry any activity by the local union “composed of our own 
‘folks’” in trying “to drag into its own affairs the ‘folks’ that are inter- 
national or national, and do not know our own local problems.” 

^3 Cf. the following press report, sent to the paper by the minister him- 
self, which summarizes a sermon in the largest church in Middletown on 
national “Labor Stmday,” 1924: “[The preacher] based his sermon on that 
portion of the Lord’s Prayer which calls upon God ‘to give ns this day our 
daily bread.’ He pointed out that when this prayer is repeated does not 
ask God ‘to give me my daily bread’ but is broader and takes in all mankind 
in the words ‘us’ and ‘our.’ 

“The speaker took up briefly the labor situation in the United States ^ 
regards the laborer and the employer, and declared^that ‘we do not have in 
[I^Iiddletown] the conditions that exist elsewhere,’ implying that no serious 
Labor problem is in existence here. Brotherhoods among laboring men have 
done much good for the laborer and have brought to him certain rights, he 
said, but in some cases, especially where public welfare is involved, they 
have gone too far.” 



the business class appears in the statement of one of the city’s 
leaders, “Working men don’t need unions nowadays. There are 
no great evils or problems now as there were fifty years ago. 
We are much more in danger of coddling the working men 
than abusing them. Working people are just as well off now as 
they can possibly be except for things which are in the nature 
of industry and cannot be helped.” 

This decrease in the psychological satisfactions formerly 
derived from the sense of craftsmanship and in group solidar- 
ity, added to the considerations adduced in the preceding chap- 
ters, serves to strengthen the impression gained from talk with 
families of the working class that, however it may be with their 
better-educated children, for most of the present generation of 
workers “there is no break through on their industrial sector.” 
It is important for the consideration of other life-activities to 
bear in mind this fact, that the heavy majority of the numer- 
ically dominant working class group live in a world in which 
neither present nor future appears to hold as much prospect of 
dominance on the job or of the breaking through to further 
expansion of personal powers by the head of the family as 
among the business group. 

Frustrated in this sector of their lives, many workers seek 
compensations elsewhere. The president of the Middletown 
Trades Coimcil, an alert and energetic molder of thirty and 
until now the most active figure in the local labor movement, 
has left the working class to become one of the minor office- 
holders in the dominant political machine. Others who do not 
leave are finding outlets, if no longer in the saloon, in such 
compensatory devices as hooking up the radio or driving the 
“old bus.” The great pressure toward education on the part of 
the working class is, of course, another phase of this desire to 
escape to better things.^^ 

For both working and business class no other accompaniment 
of getting a living approaches in importance the money re- 
ceived for their work. It is more this future, instrumental aspect 
of work, rather than the intrinsic satisfactions involved, that 
keeps Middletown working so hard as more and more of the 
activities of living are coming to be strained through the bars 

^Cf. in Qi. XIII the importance to working class parents of education 
for their children. 


of the dollar sign.^® Among the business group, such things as 
one's circle of friends, the kind of car one drives, playing golf, 
joining Rotary, the church to which one belongs, one's political 
principles, the social position of one’s wife apparently tend 
to be scrutinized somewhat more than formerly in Middletown 
for their instrumental bearing upon the main business of get- 
ting a living, while, conversely, one’s status in these various 
other activities tends to be much influenced by one’s financial 
position. As vicinage has decreased in its influence upon the 
ordinary social contacts of this group,^® there appears to be a 
constantly closer relation between the solitary factor of finan- 
cial status and one’s social status. A leading citizen presented 
this matter in a nutshell to a member of the research staff in 
discussing the almost universal local custom of “placing” new- 
comers in terms of where they live, how they live, the kind of 
car they drive, and similar externals: “It’s perfectly natural. 
You see, they know money, and they don’t know you.” 

This dominance of the dollar appears in the apparently 
growing tendency among younger working class men to swap 
a problematic future for immediate “big money.” Foremen 
complain that Middletown boys entering the shops today are 
increasingly less interested in being moved from job to job 
until they have become all-round skilled workers, but want to 
stay on one machine and run up their production so that they 
may quickly reach a maximum wage scale.^’' 

The rise of large-scale advertising, popular magazines, 
movies, radio, and other channels of increased cultural diffusion 
from without are rapidly changing habits of thought as to what 

Cf. Maynard Keynes on "the habitual appeal” of our age "to the money 
motive in nine-tenths of the activities of life, . . . the universal striving 
after individual economic security as the prime object of endeavor . , . the 
social approbation of money as the measure of constructive success, aiKl . . . 
the social appeal to the hoarding instinct as the foundation of the necessary 
provision for the family and for the future.” {New Republic, Nov. ii, 


Cf. in Ch. XIX the places where both business and working class men 
and women see their friends. 

According to one veteran foundry foreman : "In the old days of the 
nineties a boy was shaped and trained by his foreman. When he started 
his apprenticeship for the molder’s trade he was lucky to make $3 or $4 
a week. At the end of the first year he was making, maybe, a dollar or 
$1.25 a day; at the end of the second year perhaps $1.50 or $2.00; the third 
year, $2.25; and then at the end of tiie fourth year he received his card 
and $2.75 a day. Meanwhile his foreman had shifted him about from job 



things are essential to living and multiplying optional occasions 
for spending money/® Installment buying, which turns wishes 
into horses overnight, and the heavy increase in the number of 
children receiving higher education, with its occasions for 
breaking with home traditions, are facilitating this rise to new 
standards of living. In 1890 Middletown appears to have lived 

to job until, when he became a molder and went on a piece-work basis, he 
knew his job from every angle and could make big money. But the trouble 
nowadays is that within a year a machine molder may be making as much 
as a man who has been there fifteen or twenty years. He has his eyes on 
the money— $40 to $50 a week— and resists the foreman’s efforts to put him 
on bench molding where he would learn the fine points of the molder’s 
trade ” 

^8 it is perhaps impossible to overestimate the role of motion pictures, 
advertising, and other forms of publicity in this rise in subjective standards. 
Week after week at the movies people in all walks of life enter, often with 
an intensity of emotion that is apparently one of the most potent means 
of reconditioning habits, into the intimacies of Fifth Avenue drawing rooms 
and English country houses, watching the habitual activities of a different 
cultural level. The growth of popular magazines and national advertising 
involves the utilization through the printed page of the most powerful 
stimuli to action. In place of the relatively mild, scattered, something- for- 
nothing, sample-free, I-tell-you-this-is-a-good-article copy seen in Middle- 
town a generation ago, advertising is concentrating increasingly upon a type 
of copy aiming to make the reader emotionally uneasy, to bludgeon him with 
the fact that decent people don’t live the way he does : decent people ride 
on balloon tires, have a second bathroom, and so on. This copy points an 
accusing finger at the stenographer as she reads her Motion Picture Maga- 
zine and makes her acutely conscious of her unpolished finger nails, or of 
the worn place in the living room rug, and sends the housewife peering 
anxiously into the mirror to see if her wrinkles look like those that made 

Mrs. X in the ad. **old at thirty-five” because she did not have a 

Leisure Hour electric washer. 

Whole industries are pooling their strength to ram home a higher stand- 
ard of living, e.g., the recent nation-wide essay contest among school child- 
dren on home lighting conducted by all branches of the electrical industry. 
In addition to the national prizes of a $15,000 house and university scholar- 
ships, local prizes ranging all the way from a radio set and dressing table 
to electric curling irons and basket-ball season tickets were given to the 
thirty best Middletown essays. In this campaign 1,500 Middletown children 
submitted essays on how the lighting of their homes could be improved, and 
upwards of 1,500 families were made immediately aware of the inadequacies 
of their homes as regards library table lamps, p<prch lights, piano lamps, 
and convenient floor sockets. As one of the winning local essays said : *T 
and all my family have learned a great deal that we did not know before, 
and we intend improving the lighting in our own home.” 

The '"style show” is a new and effective form of Middletown advertising 
that^ unquestionably influences the local standard of living. On two suc- 
cessive nights at one of these local shows a thousand people — ten-cent store 
clerks, tired-looking mothers with children, husbands and wives — ^watched 
rouged^ clerks promenade languorously along the tops of the show cases, 
displaying the latest hats, furs, dresses, shoes, parasols, bags and other 
accessories, while a jazz orchestra kept everybody “feeling good*” 



on a series of plateaus as regards standard of living; old citi- 
zens say there was more contentment with relative arrival ; it 
was a common thing to hear a remark that so and so “is pretty 
good for people in our circumstances/’ Today the edges of the 
plateaus have been shaved off, and every one lives on a slope 
from any point of which desirable things belonging to people all 
the way to the top are in view. 

This diffusion of new urgent occasions for spending money 
in every sector of living is exhibited by such new tools and 
services commonly used in Middletown today, but either un- 
known or little used in the nineties, as the following : 

In the home — furnace, running hot and cold water, modem 
sanitation, electric appliances ranging from toasters to washing 
machines, telephone, refrigeration, green vegetables and fresh fruit 
all the year round, greater variety of clothing, silk hose and under- 
wear, commercial pressing and cleaning of clothes,^® commercial 
laundering or use of expensive electrical equipment in the home,^® 
cosmetics, manicuring, and commercial hair-dressing. 

In spending leisure time — ^movies (attendance far more fre- 
quent than at earlier occasional “shows”), automobile (gas, tires, 
depreciation, cost of trips), phonograph, radio, more elaborate 
children’s playthings, more club dues for more members of the 
family, Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A., more formal dances and ban- 
quets, including a highly competitive series of “smartly appointed 
affairs” by high school clubs ; cigarette smoking and expensive 

In education — high school and college (involving longer de- 
pendence of children), many new incidental costs such as entrance 
to constant school athletic contests.^^ 

In the Middletown city directory for 1889 there were no dry cleaners 
and only one dye house. Today a city less than four times the size twelve 
dry cleaners and four dye houses. The habit of pressing- trousers is said nat 
to have *‘come iri’ until about 1895. 

2t>The hand-washers of. 1890 sold for $7.5o-$io.oo, while the modem 
machines cost $60.00 to $200.00. 

21 A dance no longer costs $0.50, as in the nineties, but the members of 
clubs are assessed about $4.00 for their Christmas dances today. Music used 
to be a two- or three-piece affair, but now it is an imported orchestra 
costing from $150 to $300. A boy has to take a girl in a taxi if he does not 
have the use of the family car. One does not go home after a dance but 
spends a dollar or so on “eats” afterwards. Expensive favors are given at 
annual sorority banquets. 

22 See Table VI for distribution of expenditures of too working class 



In the face of these rapidly multiplying accessories to living, 
the ^'social problem’^ of ‘‘the high cost of living'" is apparently 
envisaged by most people in Middletown as soluble if they can 
only inch themselves up a notch higher in the amount of money 
received for their work. Under these circumstances, why 
shouldn't money be important to people in Middletown? “The 
Bible never spoke a truer word," says the local paper in an 
editorial headed “Your Bank Account Your Best Friend," 
“than when it said : ‘But money answereth all things." ... If 
it doesn't answer all things, it at least answers more than 50 
per cent, of them." And again, “Of our happy position in world 
affairs there need be no . . . further proof than the stability 
of our money system." One leading Middletown business man 
summed up this trend toward a monetary approach to the satis- 
factions of life in addressing a local civic club when he said, 
“Next to the doctor we think of the banker to help us and to 
guide us in our wants and worries today." 

Money being, then, so crucial, how much money do Middle- 
town people actually receive? The minimum cost of living for 
a “standard family of five" in Middletown in 1924 was 
$1,920.87.^® A complete distribution of the earnings of Mid- 
dletown is not available. Twelve to 15 per cent, of those 
getting the city's living reported a large enough income for 
1923 to make the filing of a Federal income tax return neces- 
sary.^^ Of the 16,000-17,000 people gainfully employed in 1923 
— including, however, somewhere in the neighborhood of a 
thousand married women, some of whom undoubtedly made 
joint returns with their husbands — ^210 reported net incomes 
(i.e., minus interest, contributions, etc.) of $5,000 or over, 999 
more net incomes less than $5,000 but large enough to be 
taxable after subtracting allowed exemptions ($1,000 if single, 
$2,500 if married, and $400 per dependent), while 1,036 more 
filed returns but were not taxable after subtracting allowed de- 
ductions and exemptions. The other 85-88 per cent, of those 
earning the city's living presumably received either less than 

23 Based on the budget of the United States Bureau of Labor and com- 
puted on the basis of Middletown prices. See Table VII. 

24r These income tax data, fallible as they are, owing to non-reporting and 
other possible errors, are used here simply as the best rough estimate avail- 
able. There are at the outside probably not over two- or three-score people 
in Middletown who made income tax returns who are not actually engaged 
in getting a living. 


$1,000 if single or less than $2,000 if married, or failed to 
make income tax returns. A cross section of working class 
earnings is afforded by the following distribution of 100 of 
the working class families interviewed according to their earn- 
ings in the preceding twelve months : 

Distribution Distribution 
of Families of Families by 
by Fathers' Total Family 
Earnings Only Earnings 

Total number of families 100 100 

Earning less than minimum standard of $i,g20,8/ 

Families of 5 members or more 42 39 

Families of 4 or 3 members (including fam- 
ilies of 2 foremen) 35 35 

Earning more than minimum standard of $i,g20,8/ 

Families of 5 members or more (including one 

foreman) 10 13 

Families of 4 or 3 members (including 6 fore- 
men) 13 13 

The incomes of these 100 families range from $344.50 to 
$3,460.00, with the median at $1,494.75 and the first and third 
quartiles respectively at $1,193.63 and $2,006.00.^** 

The relative earning power of males and females in Middle- 
town is indicated by the fact that in a characteristic leading 
Middletown plant during the first six months of 1924 the 
weighted average hourly wage of all females (excluding office 
force and forewomen) was $0.31 and of all males (excluding 

25 See Table VI for distribution of income of these 100 families by mem- 
bers of family earning and for distribution of certain major items of 
expenditure throughout the year. 

Six of the twelve months ( Oct. i, 1923, to Oct. i, 1924) covered by these 
income figures were good times in Middletown and six months were rela- 
tively bad times locally, though the latter was not a period of national 
depression. This would tend to make the 1924 average income less than on a 
**big year" like 1923 — ^though 50 per cent, good and bad times is more 
representative of the actual chance to get a living in Middletown today than 
either a completely good or bad year would have been. 

See Appendix on Method regarding choice of families in connection 
with the fact of the presence of nine foremen's families in the sample. 

The minimum standard for a family of less than five members would be 
less than $1,920.87, and consequently certain marginal families of three or 
four grouped above with those earning less than the minimum would on a 
more exact calculation be transferred to the group earning more than the 
minimum standard. 

26 The incomes of the husbands alone of these 100 families exhibit a 
spread from $34i^.5o to $3,200.00, with the median at $1,303.10 and the first 
and third quartiles at $1,047.50 and $1,856.75 respectively. 



office force and foremen) $0.55. The bulk of this plant is on 
a ten-hour basis, fifty-five hours per week, making the average 
annual income for fifty-two weeks, provided work is steady, 
$886.60 for females and $1,573.00 for males. In three other 
major plants similar average wages for males were $0.55, 
$0.54 and $0.59. In general, unskilled female labor gets $0.18 
to $0.28 an hour and a few skilled females $0.30 to $0.50.^'^ 
Unskilled males receive $0.35 to $0.40 an hour and skilled males 
from $0.50 to $1.00 and occasionally slightly more. 

As over against these wages of women in industry in Mid- 
dletown in 1924, ranging from $10.00 to $18.00 a week in the 
main, the younger clerks in the leading department store re- 
ceived $10.00 a week, and more experienced clerks a flat rate 
from $8,00 to $17.00 a week plus a bonus, if earned — ^the whole 
amounting occasionally ^'when times are good’’ for a veteran 
derk to $30.00 to $40.00 a week. 

A detailed calculation of a cost of living index for Middle- 
town in 1924 on the basis of the cost of living in 1891 reveals 
an increase of 117 per cent.^® A comparison of the average 
yearly earnings of the 100 heads of families in 1924 with avail- 
able figures for 439 glass, wood, and iron and steel workers 
in Middletown in 1891 reveals an average of $1,469.61 in the 
former case and $505.65 in the latter, or an increase of 191 
per cent, today. Or if we take the earnings of school teachers 
as an index, probably conservative, of the trend in earnings, as 
against this rise of 1 17 per cent, in the cost of living, it appears 
that the minimum salary paid to grade school teachers has 
risen 143 per cent, and the maximum 159 per cent., and the 
minimum salary paid to high school teachers 134 per cent, and 
the maximum 250 per cent. The median salary for grade school 
teachers in 1924 was $1,331.25, with the first and third quar- 

^^Willford I. King says wages of females the country over are “about 
three-fourths those of males.” {Op, cit, p. 144.) 

28 See Table VIII for the increase by major items and also for the 
method of computing this index. 

29 The i8gi earnings are taken from the Fourth Biennial Report for the 
state in which Middletown is located, dated 1891-2, pp. 57, 130, and 317. 
This Report gives the average income of 225 Middletown adult male glass 
workers as $519.49, of sixty-nine wood workers as $432.32, and of 145 iron 
and steel workers as $519.06 — or an average for the entire 439 of $505.65. 
Too much weight obviously cannot be put upon these 1891 figures, as noth- 
ing is known either as to the method of their collection or as to their 


tiles at $983.66 and $1,368.00 respectively. The median salary 
for high school teachers was $1,575.00, with the first and third 
quartiles at $i,zp}.9-43 and $1,705.50 respectively. Substantial 
increases in the incomes of persons in certain other representa- 
tive occupations are suggested by the fact that the salary of a 
bank teller has mounted from $50.00 or $65.00 a month in 
1890 to $166.67 a month in 1924, that of an average male clerk 
in a leading men’s clothing store from $12.00 a week in 1890 
to $35.00 today; a doctor’s fee for a normal delivery with the 
^same amount of accompanying care in both periods has risen 
from $10.00 to $35.00, and for a house call from $1.00 to 

Thus this crucial activity of spending one’s best energies year 
in and year out in doing things remote from the immediate 
concerns of living eventuates apparently in the ability to buy 
somewhat more than formerly, but both business men and 
working men seem to be running for dear life in this business 
of making the money they earn keep pace with the even more 
rapid growth of their subjective wants. A Rip Van Winkle who 
fell asleep in the Middletown of 1885 to awake today would 
marvel at the change as did the French economist Say when he 
revisited England at the close of the Napoleonic Wars; every 
one seemed to run intent upon his own business as though 
fearing to stop lest those behind trample him down. In the quiet 
county-seat of the middle eighties men lived relatively close 
to the earth and its products. In less than four decades, business 
class and working class, bosses and bossed, have been caught up 
by Industry, this new trait in the city’s culture that is shaping 
the pattern of the whole of living.^® According to its needs, 
large numbers of people anxious to get their living are period- 
ically stopped by the recurrent phenomenon of ‘^bad times” 
when the machines stop running, workers are '"laid off” by the 
hundreds, salesmen sell less, bankers call in loans, "credit 
freezes,” and many Middletown families may take their chil- 
dren from school, move into cheaper homes, cut down on food, 
and do without many of the countless things they desire. 

The working class is mystified by the whole fateful business. 
Many of them say, for instance, that they went to the polls and 

80 R. H, Tawney speaks of the rise of industiy '*to a position of ex- 
clusive prominence among human interests” until the modern world is 
'‘like a hypochondriac * * * absorbed in the processes of his own digestion.” 



voted for Coolidge in November, 1924, after being assured 
daily by the local papers that ‘'A vote for Coolidge is a vote for 
prosperity and your joV^; puzzled as to why '"times’’ did not 
improve after the overwhelming victory of Coolidge, a number 
of them asked the interviewers if the latter thought times would 
be better "after the first of the year”; the first of the year 
having come and gone, their question was changed to "Will 
business pick up in the spring?” 

The attitude of the business men, as fairly reflected by the 
editorial pages of the press which today echo the sentiments 
heard at Rotary and the Chamber of Commerce, is more confi- 
dent but confusing. Within a year the leading paper offered the 
following prescriptions for local prosperity: "The first duty 
of a citizen is to produce” ; and later, "The American citizen’s 
first importance to his country is no longer that of citizen but 
that of consumer. Consumption is a new necessity.” "The way 
to make business boom is to buy.” At the same time that the 
citizen is told to "consume” he is told, "Better start saving late 
than never. If you haven’t opened your weekly savings account 
with some local bank, trust company, or building and loan, 
today’s the day.” Still within the same year the people of Mid- 
dletown are told : "The only true prosperity is that for which 
can be assigned natural reasons such as good crops, a demand 
for building materials, . . . increased need for transporta- 
tion,” and ". . . advancing prices are due to natural causes 
which are always responsible for prices. ... As all wealth 
comes from the soil, so does all prosperity, which is only an- 
other way of saying so does all business.” But again, "natural 
causes” are apparently not the^ chief essential : "There can be 
no greater single contribution to the welfare of the nation than 
the spirit of hopefulness. . . "[This] will be a banner year 
because the people believe it will be, which amounts to the de- 
termination that it shall be. , . .” Still another solution for 
securing "good times” appears: "The most prosperous town 
is that in which the citizens are bound most closely together. 
. . . Loyalty to the home town ... is intensely practical. 
. . . The thing we must get into our heads about this out-of- 
town buying business is that it hurts the individual who does it 
and his friends who live here. Spending your money at home in 
the long run amounts practically to spending it upon yourself, 
and buying away from home means buying the comforts and 


luxuries for the other fellow.” “A dollar that is spent out of 
town never returns.” One looking on at this procedure may 
begin to wonder if the business men, too, are not somewhat be- 

Although neither business men nor working men like the 
recurring “hard times,” members of both groups urge the 
maintenance of the present industrial system. The former laud 
the group leaders who urge “normalcy” and “more business in 
government and less government in business,” while the follow- 
ing sentences from an address by a leading worker, the presi- 
dent of the Trades Council, during the 1924 political campaign, 
sets forth the same faith in “free competition” on the part of 
the working class : “The important issue is the economic issue. 
We can all unite on that. We want a return to active free com- 
petition, so that prices will be lower and a man can buy enough 
for himself and his family with the money he makes.” Both 
groups, as they order a lay-off, cut wages to meet outside com- 
petition, or, on the other hand, vote for La Toilette in the hope 
of his being able to “do something to help the working man,” 
appear to be fumbling earnestly to make their appropriate 
moves in the situation according to the rules of the game as 
far as they see them ; but both appear to be bound on the wheel 
of this modern game of corner-clipping production. The puz- 
zled observer may wonder how far any of them realizes the 
relation of his particular move to the whole function of getting 
a living.®^ He might even be reminded of a picture appearing 
in a periodical circulated in Middletown during the course of 
the study : A mother leans over her two absorbed infants play- 
ing at cards on the floor and asks, “What are you playing, 

“We’re playing ‘Putcher,’ Mamma. Bobby, putcher card 

In the midst of such a partially understood but earnestly fol- 
lowed scheme of getting a living, the rest of living goes on in 

Cf. Walton Hamilton’s The Case of Bituminous Coal (The Institute of 
Economics Series, Investigations in Industry and Labor. New York; Mac- 
millan, 1925), pp. 251-2. 


Chapter IX 


The forty-three people in each hundred who get Middle- 
town’s living divide their lives regularly between two places: 
their best waking energies, five and a half out of every seven 
days, are spent in the buildings set apart for industry and busi- 
ness ; their other activities traditionally center about the homes 
in which they and their families sleep and eat. In these homes 
the twenty-three people in each hundred who are engaged in 
making the homes of the city, the four in each hundred who 
are the very old or feeble, the eleven who are very young, and, 
to a considerably less extent, the nineteen receiving required 
school training, carry on their respective activities. Next to the 
places where people get a living, these homes form the most 
apparent locus of the lives of the community. 

Middletown’s 38,000 people live in 9,200 homes 86 per 
cent, of these homes are in one-family houses, each standing 
on a separate patch of ground, the latter called, with increasing 
significance in view of its shrinking size, ‘^a yard” ; 10 per cent, 
are in two-family houses, a more common type since 1890 as 
building costs have risen ; i per cent, in apartments ; ^ and 3 per 

^ See Appendix on Method for the basis of this population estimate. 

The official count of the households of the city by the Middletown post 
office in August, 1924, was 9,240. The house-by-house map of the City Plan 
Commission for May, 1923, showed 9,163 (including supplementary counts 
in connection with the present study for the number in apartments and over 
stores in the downtown section). The count of the Commercial Department 
of the Indiana Bell Telephone Company, begun in the spring of 1922 and 
completed in the spring of 1923, showed 9,159 households within the city 

2 In the ample Middletown of 189a it was “poor- folksy” not to have a 
house with a yard, and local sentiment still frowns upon apartment life for 
families with children. Apartments tend to be inhabit^ by childkss couples, 
elderly women, and similar atypical family groups. There were no apart- 
ment buildings in 1890, and there ate less than a score today, but both apart- 
ments and duplexes are increasing in number. 

According to the Federal Census the persons in each dwelling (any build- 
ing under a single roof in which one or more persons live, including hotels, 




cent, over stores, chiefly in the ^^downtown’’ section. The life of 
a house in Middletown is thirty to fifty years, and, as 
in each new generation the less well-to-do tend to inherit the 
aging homes of the group slightly ‘‘better off’' in the preceding 
generation, the city lives, in the main, in houses fifteen to forty 
years old.® Although working class families tend to be larger 
than those of the business class (the 124 working class families 
interviewed average 5.4 members each and the forty business 
class families 4.7), it is the business group, generally speaking, 
who live in the larger dwellings; one in each three of the 124 
working class families interviewed and four out of five of the 
forty business class families live in single-family houses large 
enough to have two floors.*^ 

In the eighties the usual size of the plot of ground on which 
a house was built was sixty-two and a half feet fronting on 
the street, with a depth of 125 feet; the standard building lot 
today has a frontage of forty feet. Whereas the city blocks of 
1890 usually contained eight lots, the same blocks now contain 
ten, twelve, and even fourteen. A common practice today is to 
saw off the back of a lot and insert an additional house front- 
ing on the side street- The implications of this shift for play 
room for children, leisure-time activities for the entire family, 
family privacy, and even for the former sense of substantial 
pride in the appearance of one's “place” are obvious. Houses are 
crowding closer to the front paving-line, and flowers and shrub- 

duplexes, and apartment houses) in Middletown decreased from 4.70 to 4.22 
b^wem 1890 and 1920. The families per dwelling rose from 1.05 to 

figure for 1910 was the same as that for 1890; the post-war housing 
shortage may account for the 1920 figure.) At the same time persons per 
family decreased from 4.46 to 3.83. 

® P<^?^^^hon and presumably the number of dwellings today are 

roughly SIX times the number in 1887, three and one-third times that of 1890 
not quite double that of 1900, and one and a half times that of 1010 the 
rough proportion of dwellings inherited from each decade is apparent 
although allowance must be made for fires and the razing and improve- 
ment of old buildings. 

4 Another third of the working class sample live in small, one-floored 
(mttages, a sixth in new and more prosperous bungalows, and the final sixth 
in two-family houses and flats. Two of the forty business class families 
interviewed live in new pretentious two-floored homes; four in pretentious 
two- and three-floored houses of an earlier period built of stone or brick * 
^ven in unpretentious new houses (bungalows and small two-floored 
houses, in general less than ten or twelve years old) ; twenty-two in unpre- 


places, all but one of them two-floored) ; two in apartments; two in duplex 
aouses ; one in a hotel. 


bery must give way as the lawn shrinks to allow a driveway 
to the garage. The housewife with leisure does not sit so much 
on the front porch in the afternoon after she ''gets dressed up/" 
sewing and "visiting"’ and comparing her yard with her neigh- 
bors’, nor do the family and neighbors spend long summer eve- 
nings and Sunday afternoons on the porch or in the side yard 
since the advent of the automobile and the movies. These fac- 
tors tend to make a decorative yard less urgent ; the make of 
one’s car is rivaling the looks of one’s place as an evidence of 
one’s "belonging.” ® 

Houses are usually built of wood.® Those of the poorest 
working class families appear essentially the same externally as 
they did in the middle of the last century — ^bare little one-story 
oblong wooden boxes with a roof and with partitions inside 
making two to four small rooms. At the other extreme are the 
large homes of the more prosperous members of the business 
class ; these exhibit considerably greater simplicity of line than 
a generation ago, when an "elegant new residence” might be 
described in the press as a "conglomeration of gables, nooks, 
verandas, and balconies with three stone chimneys towering 
above, giving the appearance of an ancient castle.” ^ 

® Back yards are ceasing- to be ample affairs with grass and fruit trees 
and grape arbors where the housewife sits and peels potatoes for supper 
or cuts up fruit for canning and the family spends Sunday afternoons around 
the barrel-stave hammock. In many working class families smaller yards 
and closer neighbors have reduced the back yard to an overflow storage place 
in this day of no attics, store rooms, or barns. 

The large back-yard garden has either disappeared altogether or is con- 
siderably more limited in size and content. Among working class families, 
smaller yards, less home canning, lack of winter storage space for food, 
time spent riding and tinkering on the car, movies, and similar factors have 
been responsible for the decline of back-yard gardening, while among the 
business class families the high cost of labor, increased preoccupation of the 
son of the family with extracurricular school activities and “Y" summer 
camp, the tendency of a few families to move in summer to a cottage at the 
Lakes ninety miles distant, are additional factors operating in the same 
direction. A local seed store proprietor who has lived in the city since the 
Civil War estimated that certainly not over 40 or 50 per cent, of the local 
families today have even small back-yard gardens, whereas he thinks “75-80 
per cent, anyivay” had them in 1890, and the 1890 gardens were considerably 
larger. He attributes the difference to the automobile. 

® Over ninety-five houses in each one hundred are made of wood. In 1924 
licenses were issued in Middletown for the construction of 205 wooden 
houses, two one-floor brick houses, three two-floor brick houses, one tile, and 
three stucco houses. 

7 The disappearances of the ornate houses of the seventies and eighties, 
decked out in elaborate scrolls and “gingerbread” work, in favor of the 



In the eighties with their ample yards, porches were not 
urgently ne^ed. Towards 1900, as smaller yards were driving 
the family doser to the house, people began to hear of porches 
in the state capital '"fitted up like a room,” and the era of porch 
furniture began ; small wood-working plants that were losing 
their local trade in wagons and agricultural implements ex- 
ploited this new specialty eagerly. Already, however, business 
dass homes are leading the way in a reversion to porchless 
designs with glassed-in sun parlor and sleeping porch, the latter 
showing how far Middletown has moved from its "fear of the 
night air,” which in 1890 prompted sleeping with windows down 
a gingerly six inches at the top. Today none of the workers* 
houses has a sleeping porch and relatively few of the homes 
of the business group, but according to a local building expert, 
"The man who puts $8,000 and up into a house today demands 
a sleeping porch.” The trend is apparently to divert the money 
formerly put into front porches to sleeping porches, glassed- 
in dens, and other more private and more often used parts of 
the house. 

A Middletown building expert estimates that the majority of 
homes constructed within the last ten to fifteen years have at 
least 50 per cent, more glass surface than in 1890. More air can 
be let in from without today because more heat can be secured 
within. Several hundred homes are heated by a central heating 
plant operated under city franchise and hundreds of others by 
furnace, steam or oil, although most of the working class still 
live in the base-burned and unheated-bed-room era.® With 

plainer homes of today in which the emphasis is upon all manner of new 
interior devices in bathroom and elsewhere, probably reflects, among other 
things, a tendency commonly observable in human culture : in periods when 
improvements in effectiveness of the utility of a tool are at a standstill, 
human ingenuity tends to spend itself in decorating the tool, but in periods 
of evolution effectiveness of the major use, ornamentation tends to 

assume a place of secondary importance. The Middletown house of the 
eighties was still simply a box divided into rooms, with relatively few 
changes in process in its adaptation as a place in which to live comfortably. 
The coming of bathrooms, a wide range of electrical equipment, central 
heating, and other inventions, is today focusing attention upon a wide variety 
of changes in the interior livableness, with corresponding decline in exterior 

« In the survey of Zanesville, Ohio, a city of 30,442, in 1925 it was found 
HiSLt 48.0 per cent, of the 11,232 homes of the city were heated by furnace. 
Zanesville and Thirty-six Other American Communities (New York; Lit^ 
erary Digest, 1927), p. 65. It is not unlikely that conditions in Middletown 
resemble roughly those prevailing in Zanesville in this respect 


furnaces have come basements which, in the sense of cement- 
floored and walled rooms beneath the house, were practically 
non-existent in the Middletown of 1890. This inconspicuous 
item of basement, plus foundation, adds $700 to the cost of 
even a small house ; a basement today costs about what a small 
house cost in the early nineties.® 

There was no running water prior to 1885, and by 1890 not 
more than 20 per cent, of the total mileage of the city’s streets 
was underlaid with water mains. It is estimated that in 1890 
only about one family in six or eight had even the crudest run- 
ning water — a. hydrant in the yard or a faucet at the iron 
kitchen sink. A leading citizen thought it sufficiently important 
to enter in his diary in 1890 that a neighbor “has a hydrant for 
his house.” The minutes of the Board of Education for 1888 
contain an item: “Eph Smell . . . i wooden pump for High 
School . . . $10.00.” For the most part, Middletown pumped 
its water to the back door or kitchen from a well or cistern. By 
1890 there were not over two dozen complete bathrooms in the 
entire city. For approximately ninety-five families in each hun- 
dred, “taking a bath” meant lugging a heavy wooden or tin 
tub into a bedroom, or more usually the warm kitchen, and fill- 
ing it half full of water from the pump, heated on the kitchen 
stove. Today all new houses, except the very cheapest, have 
bathrooms, and many old houses are installing this improve- 
ment rapidly.^® Many homes, however, still lack not only bath- 
room, but in January, 1925, approximately one in four of all 
the city’s dwellings lacked running water.’-^ This considerable 
use of a water supply from back-yard wells accompanies the per- 
sistence in even more working class homes of the old-fashioned 
backyard “privy.” According to the City Engineer, only two- 
thirds of the houses had sewer connections in 1924. It is not un- 

• ® Another aspect of this change from the old-fashioned fruit cellar to the 
modern basement is the increasing tendency to substitute the comer grocery 
for the family storage of food in quantities in cellar and attic. Instead of 
buying potatoes and apples by the barrel, the tendency is to purchase pota- 
toes by the peck and fruit by the dozen or pound. 

The extent to which this improvement is being introduced into older 
houses is reflected in the fact that one of the dozen local plumbing firms 
alone claims to have installed SO per cent, more bathrooms in 1923, when 
“times were good,” than the entire total of new houses built during the 

Sixty-one and eight-tenths per cent, of the 11,232 homes of Zanesville 
have bathrooms, and 61 per cent, plumbing. (O^. cit.j pp. 55 and 63.) 



common to observe 1890 and 1924 habits jostling along side by 
side in a family with primitive back-yard water or sewage 
habits, yet using an automobile, electric washer, electric iron, 
and vacuum cleaner. This unevenness in the diffusion of ma- 
terial culture becomes even more significant in the light of the 
community's public health service with its outwardly stringent 
prohibition upon back-yard water supplies and back-yard toilets 
and sewage disposal. 

Electric lighting is so much a matter of course today that 
it is hard to recover the days before its advent. The Middletown 
press in 1895 regarded natural gas as the last word in home- 
making — ^'the millennium of comfort and cleanliness is at 
hand" ; but most of the discoveries and virtually all of the enor- 
mous popular diffusion of modem electricity in terms of the 
home — electric lighting of a brilliance and steadiness undreamed 
of then, labor-saving devices for cleaning the house, washing 
clothes, and cooking — still lay in the future. Over 95 per cent, 
of Middletown's houses were without electricity in 1890; by 
1916, 60 per cent, were using electricity for lighting purposes, 
and in June, 1925, 99 per cent, of the homes were wired and 
presumably at least lighted by electricity.^^ In slightly more 
than two out of each three families cooking is done with gas at 
the present time, the others using gasoline, coal, and a very few 

No other changes in Middletown's homes have been as 
marked as the adoption by the bulk of the community of these 
various conveniences, used only by a few of the very wealthy 
in the nineties. The interior plan of the house has remained 
fundamentally the same, although there has been some trend 
toward fewer and larger rooms, the ''parlor" and the "spare 

i2Xhe implications of improvement in lighting should be borne in mind 
in the complex of factors surrounding the reading of printed matter. The 
Middletown^ press in 1890 carried an announcement of a new “gas burner 
giving the light of 250 candle power without a particle of flicker or shadow. 
Just think of it.’’ Club women still recall the discomforts of occasional 
evening meetings when the members who were on the program stood 
sweltering under the heat of the jumbo burners. 

The increase in the reading serviceability of the modem electric light 
may be gauged from the following list of relative brightness of common 
illuminants in terms of candle power per square inch: Tungsten lamp 
1,500; Gem lamp 750; Carbon lamp 400; Welsbach light 30; gas flame 7; 
kerosene light 7; incandescent frosted lamp 6; candle 3. Louis Bell, The Art 
of Illumination (New York; McGraw, Hill, 1012), p. 12. 


bedroom” being the casualties. In some working class homes the 
parlor, living room, and kitchen have become living room, 
dining room, and kitchen, but in many the parlor survives, in 
which case the family lives in the dining room. Among the 
business class and in the case of the newer bungalows of the 
working class, the tendency is to throw together much of the 
lower floor by means of large double doorways.^^ 

The main type of interior furnishing, as well as of plan of 
house, is fairly definitely fixed in the habits of all groups; a 
higher standard of living exhibits itself, not in any radical 
departure from this general type, but in minor variations and 
more costly elaborations.^^ 

The poorer working man, coming home after his nine and 
a half hours on the job, walks up the frequently unpaved 
street, turns in at a bare yard littered with a rusty velocipede or 
worn-out automobile tires, opens a sagging door and enters the 
living room of his home. From this room the whole house is 
visible — ^the kitchen with table and floor swarming with flies 
and often strewn with bread crusts, orange skins, torn papers, 
and lumps of coal and wood ; the bedrooms with soiled, heavy 
quilts falling off the beds. The worn green shades hanging 
down at a tipsy angle admit only a flecked half-light upon the 
ornate calendars or enlarged colored portraits of the children 
in heavy gilt frames tilted out at a precarious angle just below 
the ceiling. The whole interior is musty with stale odors of 
food, clothing, and tobacco. On the brown varnished shelf of 
the sideboard the wooden-backed family hair brush, with the 
baby bottle, a worn purse, and yesterday’s newspaper, may be 
half stuffed out of sight behind a bright blue glass cake dish. 

Certain implications of these changes in rooms should be noted. The 
disappearance of the spare bedroom in these days of high building costs is 
probably not unrelated to the diminishing tendency pointed out in Ch. 
XXVI for aging parents to come home to live with their children. Likewise, 
the tendency to throw the former parlor and sitting room together as one 
large exposed living room, doing away with the privacy that the daughter 
of the house and her caller used to find in the earlier parlor, may be related 
to the fact that many a daughter is leaving home with her “date’^ to ^‘get 
away from the family*’ and find privacy in the anonymity and darkness of 
the movies or automobile. This is in turn reflected in the prominence of the 
number of evenings children are away from home during the week as a 
source of disagreement between children and their parents, noted in Ch. XI. 

i^The descriptions which follow are composite pictures based upon de- 
tailed accounts of the homes visited by staff interviewers. 



Rust spots the base-burner. A baby in wet, dirty clothes crawls 
about the bare floor among the odd pieces of furniture.^® 

The working man with more money leeway may go home 
through a tidy front yard; whether his home is of the two- 
floor variety, a bungalow, or a cottage, there are often gerani- 
ums in the front windows, neat with their tan, tasseled shades 
and coarse lace curtains. A name-plate of silvered glass 
adorns the door. The small living room is light, with a rather 
hard brightness, from the blue- and pink-flowered rug, bought 
on installment, to the artificial flowers, elaborately embroid- 
ered pillows and many-colored ""center pieces."' The furniture is 
probably straight-lined ""mission" of dark or golden oak or, 
if the family is more prosperous, ""overstuffed." The sewing 
machine stands in the living room or dining room, and the 
ironing board with its neat piles of clothes stretches across one 
comer of the kitchen. ""Knickknacks" of all sorts are about — 
easeled portraits on piano or phonograph, a paper knife brought 
by some traveled relative from Yellowstone Park, pictures 
that the small daughter has drawn in school, or if the family 
is of a religious bent, colored mottoes : ""What will you be doing 
when Jesus comes?" or ""Prepare to meet thy God." There may 
even be a standing lamp with a bright silk shade, another recent 
installment purchase and a mark of prestige. Some magazines 
may be lying about, but rarely any books. 

The homes of some head bookkeepers, owners of small re- 
tail stores, school teachers, and other less wealthy members of 
the business group convey an atmosphere of continual forced 
choices between things for the house and things for the chil- 
dren — between a hardwood floor for the front hall and living 
room or a much-needed rug and the same amount of money put 
into music lessons or Y.M.C.A. summer camp. These houses 

Incongruities appear in some of these homes. There is not invariably a 
correspondence between dirt and low wages; in one of the poorest shacks 
the man was earning $45 a week. In another very dirty house almost totally 
without furniture, the housewife, dressed in a soiled and badly torn gingham 
dress, with wide runs in her black cotton stockings and run-down heels, was 
at work at an electric washing machine. 

A leading local furniture store centers its selling talk for its expensive 
over-stuffed living-room suites about the claim that the home is judged by 
its living room — ^the place where guests and strangers are received. In that 
way, according to the manager, “working class families are persuaded to 
buy very expensive living-room suites and let the rest of the house slide 
a biP’ 


may be twenty years old and unadorned, with small rooms and 
a miscellany of used furniture. There is less likely to be 
a radio than in the more prosperous working class home, but 
one may come upon a copy of Whistler’s portrait of his mother 
or a water-color landscape and a set of Dickens or Irving in a 
worn binding; the rugs are often more threadbare than those 
in the living room of a foreman, but text-books of a mission- 
ary society or of a study section of the Woman’s Club are 
lying on the mission library table. 

To some more prosperous members of the business group 
their homes are a source of pride as they walk up a neatly 
paved, tree-bordered street to homes which are ^‘the last word 
in the up-to-date small house/’ The house may be shingled or 
stuccoed, in a trim terraced yard. Everything from the bitter- 
sweet in the flower-holder by the front door to the modern 
mahogany smoking table by the over-stuffed davenport be- 
speaks correctness. The long living room opens by a double 
doorway into the dining room. Colors in rugs, chair coverings, 
curtains, and the elaborate silk shades of the standing lamps 
match. There are three or four pictures — colored photographs 
or Maxfield Parrish prints — ^hung precisely at the level of the 
eyes, a pair of candle-sticks on the sectional bookcase, and 
a few bowls and trays; the kitchen cabinet has every conven- 
ience. Here one sees the complete small house.^’' ‘Tt’s so hard to 
know what to give our relatives for Christmas any more,” said 
one woman; ''they have their homes and their knickknacks and 
their pictures just as we have. It’s hard to find anything new 
that they haven’t got. We’ve stopped giving to our friends 
except just cards, but we have to give to the family.” 

A group of wealthy families live in "fine old places” in the 

An ambitious specimen of this general type is the six-room "ideal 
home” built and furnished for public view on “Meadow Lane” in Middle- 
town's smartest subdivision in 1924 — a $9,700 house, exclusive of the furnish- 
ings. This “Tudor-bethan” house of “stone, brick, and stucco” was “built to 
demonstrate up-to-the-minute building materials and household equipment.” 
“An attractive feature of the living room is the black and gold damask 
wall panel hung from the decorated pole on special cords, against which is 
placed a long console table on each end of which are attractive imported 
pottery lamps. The Tuxedo davenport, the Cotwell, Windsor, and colonial 
chairs suggest the English idea. The sunfast gold and red gauze net with 
overhangs of taifiFeta in burnt orange, henna, brown, and soft green, makes a 
very restful and soft effect, hung to the floor under a hand-decorated 
comice. ... 

“The dining room furniture is of Spanish Renaissance period design with 



**East End” of town, some of them still in the houses where the 
husband or wife was bom. These houses may be large, heavy 
brick or stone affairs with perhaps two stone lions guarding the 
driveway near the old hitching post and carriage block bearing 
the owner^s name. Other families live in rambling, comfortable 
frame houses in this section, while still others are following the 
movement out to the newer college district. Here they build 
low homes of brick or field stone or of the white Dutch colonial 
typQ with every convenience in the way of plumbing and light- 
ing and with spacious glassed-in porches.^® 

Whether the father of one of these families comes home 
from office or bank to the large parlors and library of the older 
type of house or to the ample long living room of the new, 
he is greeted by an atmosphere of quiet and space. The wide 
rooms, soft hangings, old mahogany, one-toned rugs or deep- 
colored Orientals, grand piano, fireplaces, cut flowers, open 
book-shelves with sets of Mark Twain and Eugene Field and 
standard modem novels, the walls hung with prints of the 
Bargello, St. Mark’s, ‘"Mme. Lebruil and Her Daughter” 
may be combined with certain individual touches, a piece of 
tapestry on the wall, a picture not seen elsewhere, a blue Chi- 
nese bowl. 

Here, then, in this array of dwellihgs, ranging from the 
mean and cluttered to the spacious and restful, Middletown’s 
most ‘^sacred” institution, the family, works out its destiny. 

chair seats of red mohair to blend with the Italian red wool damask 
draperies. Of especial note is the wrought-iron lantern torchier. 

“The breakfast room is furnished in bright mandarin red in sharp con- 
trast with the soft gray tones of the walls and woodwork. 

“A pleasant atmosphere is imparted to the master's bedroom by the 
rose dotted Swiss curtains hung tmder a comice to match the floral design 
of the furniture. The twin beds, vanity dresser and dresser with separate 
mirror are of the colonial turned-post design finished in bulf and brown 
enamel. The guest bedroom is furnished in American walnut of Tudor 
design with draperies and bed-set of soft green satinette, 

*A harmonious effect is created in the third bedroom with the imported 
English chintz curtains, the rag rugs, and a Jenny Lind spool-turned day- 
bed, toilet table, and chest of drawers finished in Sheraton brown mahog- 

^ None of these families lives stylishly — ^with liveried chauffeurs and 
similar paraphernalia. The general absence of ostentation in standards of 
living is apparently due at least in part to the relative simplicity of a small 
group of the wealthiest families. 

Pictures serve as a species of furniture in most Middletown homes, as 
do the glassed cases of books in some. Cf. the discussion of art in Middle- 
town life in Ch. XVIL 


Within the privacy of these shabby or ambitious houses, mar- 
riage, birth, child-rearing, death, and the personal immensities 
of family life go forward. Here, too, as at so many other 
points, it is not so much these functional urgencies of life that 
determine how favorable this physical necessity shall be in a 
given case, but the extraneous detail of how much money the 
father earns. 

Roughly speaking, a family has to sacrifice well over its en- 
tire income for a single year to own a home, or the income of 
every fourth week to rent a home. When the families, big and 
little, are shuffled about and sorted according to this monetary 
device there emerge the “East End,’" “Riverside,” the “South 
Side,” “Neely Addition,” and “Industry” with an array of 
9,200 homes as follows : 

of total 








$7,000 and over 

$55 and over 

. 22 

$ 4 , 5 oo-$ 7 ,ooo 






Less than $2,500 

$IO -$25 

In this connection it should be borne in mind that, as shown 
in Chapter VIII, only between 12 and 15 per cent, of those en- 
gaged in earning Middletown’s living reported to the Federal 
Government in 1923 incomes, before making allowed deduc- 
tions, of more than $1,000 if single or $2,000 if married; and 
the median income of the sample of 100 working class heads 
of families, including nine foremen, was $1,303.10. 

The process by which under the institutional rules of the 
game a house gets built and lived in presents a complex pat- 
tern. There is a deep-rooted sentiment in Middletown that 
home ownership is a mark of independence, of respectability, 
of belonging, a sentiment strengthened by the lag in house 
building during the war years and the resulting housing short- 
age which has made purchase necessary in many cases to keep 

^0 Based upon a study by the Commercial Engineering Department of 
the State Bell Telephone Company in 1922-23, revised by two local real 
estate experts to approximate more closely locS valuations and rentals. 


a house from being sold over a family’s head. The greater pur- 
chasing power of current incomes noted in a preceding chapter, 
the decline in the profitableness of renting as an investment, 
and the widespread ownership of automobiles which makes 
propinquity of work and home less essential, have all facili- 
tated this drift toward ownership. Another important factor 
working in the same direction is the development of credit 
facilities for financing home-buying. In 1890, as noted above, 
a young man of good character with $350 in cash failed to 
discover any way to finance the purchase of a $750 building 
lot. Today the building and loan association is the working 
man’s way par excellence of achieving a home: ‘^The great 
function of building and loan associations is to provide homes 
for the masses of laboring people, to give them the opportunity 
to pay for these homes with their daily and weekly savings.” 

A worker who desires to purchase or build a house can do 
so through a building and loan for a payment of $0.25 weekly 
for each $100.00, the $0.25 covering both interest and princi- 
pal.^^ The first infant building and loam association opened in 
Middletown in 1889, when twenty-eight members paid in $230. 
A year later its assets were $4,471.47. So slow was the diffusion 
of the building and loan idea that five years later its assets had 
risen only to $36,068.98; in 1900 it was $142,621.34; in 1910, 
$678,428.50; while in 1924 it was $2,733,667.92. This one 
company had, at the close of 1924, 7,090 members. The head 
of the largest building and loan association in the city estimates 
that 75“8 o per cent, of the annual grist of new houses con- 
struct^ locally today are financed through the four building 
and loan organizations. According to this man’s estimate, 85 
per cent, of all those using the building and loan associations 
in Middletown are working men. Another increasingly com- 

Report of the [State'\ Building and Loan Department ([State] Year 
Book, 1920), p. 179. 

22 According- to Ely, ^‘The American method of acquiring a home is to 
buy the site, ^adually pay for it, then to mortgage it through a building 
and loan association or otherwise, to construct the home with die aid of the 
mortgage and gradually to extinguish the mortgage. We have no statistics 
to^ give us accurate information about the number who acquire homes in 
^this way, but it is a familiar observation that this may be described as the 
American method. The present writer, who has made careful observations 
for a good many years, would say that in a city of 50,000 or 40,000 inhab- 
itants in the Mississippi Valley this might represent the method in nine- 
tenths of the cases where home ownership is attained.” (Foreword to Mort* 
gages on Homes, 1920, Census Monograph, p. 13.) 


mon method today of becoming the owner of a home is the 
contract- for-deed plan whereby one pays for his home by the 
month at a rate approximately 50 per cent, higher than the rent 
for such a house would be, meanwhile occupying the house and 
keeping up taxes and all other costs. If one misses two months" 
rent in succession the home automatically reverts, with all im- 
provements that the buyer may have put into it, to the holder of 
the title.^^ 

Over against these factors inviting home ownership are the 
never before equaled array of bidders against the home for 
Middletown’s dollars. The manager of a local company that has 
sprung up to finance automobile purchases states that a work- 
ing man earning $35 a week and buying a car frequently aims to 
use one week’s wages each month in paying for the car. Higher 
education for children is another serious new competitor. 

A further important deterrent to ownership is the multiplica- 
tion of institutional hurdles which must be cleared in building 
a house. A stranger to Middletown’s ways might well be puzzled 
by repeated references to the ^‘housing shortage” which hinders 
many Middletown families from finding suitable homes. The 
head of the Social Service Bureau might tell him of many 
families having to double up, of married children bringing their 
families home to live because they have no home of their own, 
of forty families living in shacks in a poor quarter called 
^'Shedtown.” Yet at the Advertising Club’s Friday luncheons 
he might sit beside a Middletown builder of houses who has 
great quantities of wood and nails and all other materials as 
well as idle carpenters and masons skilled in fabricating houses. 
Across the table sits another man who speaks of owning many 
desirable building lots, suitable locations for homes, which he is 

25 The spread of this last method, like the facilitation of many other 
credit purchases, is leading certain families into difficulties: they get their 
living under a set of rules that require the suspension of play when the 
game becomes unprofitable to the owners of industrial plants, whereas coin- 
cidentally buying a house under this contract-for-deed system operates under 
rules requiring uninterrupted payment. Untrained in such matters as the 
amount a family can afford and coaxed by constant pressure to buy, it is 
not surprising that ventures in home ownership not infrequently end in 
shipwreck. There is much bad feeling among the working class of Middle- 
town over the operation of this system. An influential business man spoke 
bitterly of a man prominent in the religious life of the city who “has grown 
rich selling houses that way — making people pay up the first of each month 
and squeezing them hard until eventually they may pay up enough to allow 
them legally to take the house out of his hands to a building and loan.” 



eager to dispose of. Why then a housing shortage if all the 
necessary ingredients for making an abundance of shelters are 
at hand and workmen who know how to build them are waiting 

Standardized large-scale production, the new habit in indus- 
try that makes Middletown’s large automobile parts shops 
possible, is coming very slowly in the complex of tool-using ac- 
tivities concerned with making houses ; the building of homes is 
still largely in the single-unit handicraft stage. Likewise con- 
tinuous production, which is increasingly utilized in Middle- 
town’s industries, e.g., the abolition of the two-month summer 
shut-down and single-shift day in the glass factories of 1890 
in favor of twenty-four-hour production twelve months in the 
year today, is not yet in operation in the building trades, for 
house-building is still carried on actively for only a part of 
the year.^* All of which bears out Kipling’s words — 

‘‘I tell you this tale, which is strictly true, 

Just by way of convincing you 
How very little, since things were made, 

Things have altered in the building trade.” 

But it is not seasonal, single-unit production that Middle^* 
town regards as the tight neck of the bottle : 

"It is a widely known fact,” says a Middletown newspaper edi- 
torially, "that it is almost impossible to induce anybody to con- 
struct rental houses here because it is difficult to obtain a rea- 
sonable percentage of profit out of them owing to the tremendous 
expense of owning them. Rents are high, far too high for the city’s 
good, and still real estate owners are unable profitably to build 
dwellings even though when industrial conditions in Middletown 
are right there is always a great shortage of dwellings. 

"It is doubtful if 10 per cent, of the new homes erected in 
[Middletown] last year [1923] were built for rental purposes.” 

And again the same paper throws up its hands in the face of 
this "long-standing need in the city” for "more and better homes” 
at a price local families can pay : "One who can solve this prob- 
lem would be [Middletown’s] principal benefactor.” It decries 
recent efforts "to meet the situation . . . by the construction of 

2^ The active btiilding season, the country over, is said to be limited to less 
th^ 200 daj^ a year. Permits were issued for only four new dwellings in 
Middletown in the month of February, 1924, although 214 such permits were 
issued during the entire year. 


houses built of cheap material. ... It is notably true that some 
of the dwellings erected here of late hardly can be expected to be 
serviceable fifteen years. It is not economy to buy a pair of two- 
doUar shoes that will give out in two months. . . . What is to be 
done ? The answer may lie in some new method of financing. , . . 
We must eventually devise a way whereby men with the capital 
to spare can find it a good investment to build houses and apart- 
ment buildings for rental purposes.'’^ 

Middletown builders, bankers, and carpenters, in discussing 
the housing shortage, talk of ‘'high rents,’’ “first mortgages,” 
“second mortgages,” “plumbers’ unions,” “contracts for deed,” 
“clear titles,” “sub-contracts,” “new real estate subdivisions,” 
“street improvement assessments,’^ and “fair returns on your 
investment.” It seems to be not so much a lack of raw materials 
or skill that creates the “social problem” of a housing shortage 
as this intricate network of institutional devices through which 
a citizen of Middletown must pick his way in undertaking the 
building of houses for others or in trying to secure a home for 
his own use. 

Although in the six-room “ideal home” described above the 
work was, for advertising purposes, somewhat more widely 
spread than usual among different groups of workers, the 
following list of those who helped construct it is illuminating 
as regards present-day conditions in the Middletown building 
trades : 

The site was part of a new subdivision exploited by local real- 
estate men. 

A landscape architect was brought from Qiicago to lay out the 

The house was built by the owners of the real estate. 

The project was financed by local banks. 

The plan was made by an architect. 

Construction was under the general supervision of a man whose 
business is described in the local directory as “Designer and 
Builder, Real Estate, Investments, General Insurance.” 

The above mari is busy at many things and had therefore an- 
other man on the job as general supervisor of work and materials. 

The foundation was laid by a bricklayer sub-contractor’s men. 

25 Building- houses to rent was a regular and lucrative type of investment 
in the Middletown of 1890. A local “boom book** of 1892 boasted to 
prospective citizens and investors that house costing $600 can easily be 
rented for $10 a month.” 



The stone l^se topping the foundation was sub-contracted to 
another contractor and his men. 

The hardwood floors were sanded and surfaced by still another 
contractor specializing in this work and owning an expensive 
machine used for this work. 

The stucco and plaster work was done by another sub-con- 
tractor and his men. 

An electrical contractor installed the wiring. 

Plumbing was installed by a plumbing contractor. 

A painting contractor and his men did the painting and dec- 

A tinware contractor and his men did the tin work. 

A group of heating specialists installed the furnace.^® 

The upshot of all the pullings and haulings back and forth 
of these and other institutional factors is that somewhat more 
people own their homes today than a generation ago. The Fed- 
eral Census shows 54 per cent, of the homes of the city as rented 
in 1920 as against 65 per cent, in 1900.^^ The percentage of 
renters had probably dropped even further by 1924. Only a 
third of the 123 working class families for whom data on this 
point were secured rented their homes, and only a third of the 
eighty-one who owned their homes had mortgages on them. 
^'For Rent’^ signs had become so scarce in 1924 that they were 
the subject of humorous comment in the press : 

"Vacant bungalows are so rare that a small house with a Tor 
Rent’ sign would make an attractive display in a museum.” 

^ Spiking of conditions throughout the country, John M. Gries, Chief of 
the Division of Building and Housing of the United States Department of 
Commerce, says: ^‘Under the present organization of labor more than a 
dozen skilled trades may be employed on the erection of even a small 
dwelling. Not many decades ago practically all work was done by four 
skilled trades. Most houses were built of wood and the carpenter was the 
principal skilled workman. Today work is widely subdivided and the 
scheduling of work is most difficult for the small builder. , . . Probably 75 
per cent of all the single-family houses are built by contractors erecting 
fewer than ten houses annually.” (''Housing in the United States,” Journal 
of Land and Public Utility Economics, Vol. I, No. i, January, 1925.) 

27 Seventy-three per cent of 247 Middletown working men in the wood, 
iron, and glass ptots of the city in 1891 lived in rented homes, according 
to the Fourth Biennial Report of the State Department of Statistics, 
1891-92 (pp. 57, 130, 319). These figures may be somewhat heightened by 
boom conditions. According to the same source, 62 per cent of 4,009 workers 
throughout the state, chiefly in the same three groups of industries, lived in 
rented homes in 1891, while the Federal Census for 1890 showed 60 per cent 
of the homes ip cities in the state with 8,000 to 100,000 inhabitants to be 


Another item, tinder the heading ""Times Have Changed,” says : 
""Not so many years ago it was the custom for the "to-be brides 
and bridegrooms" to go rent-hunting just prior to their marriage. 
In those days many lawns were decorated with signs advertising 
the fact that the house could be rented. But in these days, the 
young lovers would be forced to spend several months looking for 
one of these signs, since they have almost disappeared. The signs 
now found are "For Sale." "" 

If this slow trend towards home ownership represents a 
permanent drift, it may make itself felt in such ways as the 
diffusion throughout a wider section of the population of the 
place solidarity so ardently fostered by Chamber of Commerce 
and civic clubs, and the slowing up to some extent of the dis- 
integration of the neighborhood as a social unit, to be noted 
below.^® In this connection, however, attention should be called 
to the fact that the tendency is for the place-roots of the work- 
ing class to be somewhat more shallow than are those of the 
business class: less than half of the group of business class 
families interviewed and three out of each five of the working 
class families interviewed had moved during the nearly five 
years from January i, 1920, to October i, 1924; one in ten of 
the business group had moved more than once as against one 
in four of the workers; none of the former had moved more 
than twice, whereas every sixth family of the working class 
sample had moved more than twice. The working class group 
of today appear to exhibit more mobility than the families of 
their mothers.^® 

28 Cf. Ch. VII for the decline of the custom of workers’ living in close 
proximity to the plants where they work. 

28 See Table IX. Data of this sort, based in part upon memory, must 
naturally be used carefully. The fact that a move is a rather large event in 
the family annals insures a reasonably good chance of the facts being remem- 
bered accurately. 

Chapter X 


In each of Middletown’s homes lives a family, consisting 
usually of father, mother, and their unmarried children, with 
occasionally some other dependents. These family groups are 
becoming smaller. According to the Federal Census, which de- 
fines a family as one person living alone or any number of 
persons, whether related or not, who live together in one house- 
hold, Middletown families shrank from an average of 4.6 
persons in 1890 to 4.2 in 1900, to 3.9 in 1910, and 3.8 in 1920. 
Both the decrease in the number of children and the decline 
in the custom of having other dependents in the home are fac- 
tors in this change.^ The forty business class families inter- 
viewed by the staff in 1924 averaged 4.7 persons and the 124 
working class families 5.4, but only those families were inter- 
viewed which had one or more children of school age.® 

Within the walls of each house this small family group car- 
ries on the activities concerned with sex, child-rearing, food, 
clothing, sleep, and to some extent play and religion. These 
activities center about the institution of marriage. 

The country over, a smaller percentage of the population is 
unmarried today than a generation ago, and while earlier fig- 

^ Fewer *"old-maid” sisters live with married relatives now when women 
commonly work outside the home for pay, move about town freely at night 
unescort^ and live in small flats of their own. Smaller houses without 
“spare” rooms are diminishing the custom, according to the head of the 
Social Service Bureau, of having elderly parents live in the homes of 
married children. This modem tendency towards the non-support of parents 
was openly recognized in 1920 when, among the recommendations made 
by State Board of Charities and Correction to the Legislature, was one 
stating that “We believe that there should be legislation to prevent the aban- 
donment of parents by children who are able to support them.” 

The presence of outsiders as boarders at the family table is somewhat less 
sanctioned today, though roomers are still not uncommon; business class 
families who take in roomers are likely to do so to help pay children's 
expenses in college, and this explanation lessens any social stigma that may 
attach to this procedure. 

2 See Table X for distribution of these families by size. 




ures by which the trend within Middletown can be observed are 
not available, in 1920 the city had a smaller proportion of both 
males and females single than had either state or nation : 

Percentage single 

Percentage single 

males constitute of 

females constitute 

all males aged 


of all females aged 

and over 

15 and over 





United States, all classes . 



' 31.8 


“ “ urban .... 

Not available 


Not available 


State, all classes 






Not available 

3 I.I 

Not available 



.Not available 


Not available 


While only 22.8 per 

cent, of the 

population of the 


United States aged fifteen to twenty-four in 1920 were married, 
31.4 per cent, of this group in Middletown were married. It 
would appear that more people are marrying young in Middle- 
town today.^ Explanation of this apparent drift toward more 
and earlier^ marriages may lie in part in such changes, noted 
elsewhere, as the cessation of apprenticeship, which gives a boy 
of eighteen a man's wages at a machine, the increased opportu- 
nities for wives to supplement the family income by working, 
the relatively greater ease and respectability of dissolving a mar- 
riage today, the diffusion of knowledge of means of contracep- 
tion, and the growing tendency to engage in leisure-time pursuits 
by couples rather than in crowds, the unattached man or 
woman being more “out of it" in the highly organized paired 
social life of today than a generation ago when informal “drop- 
ping in" was the rule. 

3 While the single males in the United States declined between 1890 and 
1920 from 41.7 to 35.1 per cent, of all males fifteen and over, and the per- 
centage of single males aged thirty-five to forty-four showed an actual slight 
increase from 15.3 to 16.1, the single males aged fifteen to nineteen dropped 
from 99.5 to 97.7 of all males of this age and the twenty to twenty-four 
group from 80.7 to 70.7. In other words, the increase in marriage is occurring 
in the younger age groups. Likewise, throughout the state in which Middle- 
town is situated the percentage of single men in the group aged thirty-five to 
forty-four increased from 1 1.5 per cent, to 13.6 between 1890 and 1920, 
while those aged fifteen to nineteen fell from 99.6 to 97.3 per cent, and those 
aged twenty to twenty-four from 80.6 to 66.5 per cent. It is noteworthy 
that Middletown had, in 1920, 64.9 per cent of its population fifteen 
years old and over married, while in all cities in the United States of 2,500 
and over there were but 58.3 per cent, of this age group married. Neither 
race nor age or sex distribution of the population accounts for the differ- 
ence between the age of marriage in Middletown and in the urban United 
States. Probably various cultural factors are responsible. 



Marriage consists in a brief ceremonial exchange of verbal 
pledges by a man and woman before a duly sanctioned repre- 
sentative of the group. This ceremony, very largely religious in 
the nineties, is becoming increasingly secularized. In 1890, 85 
per cent, of the local marriages were performed by a religious 
representative and 13 per cent, by a secular agent, while in 1923 
those performed by the religious leaders had fallen to 63 per 
cent., and the secular group had risen to 34 per cent, of the 
total/ A prominent local minister accounted for the prevalence 
of divorces in Middletown in 1924 by the fact that ‘‘there are 
too many marriages in secular offices away from the sanctity of 
the churches.’’ The marriage ceremony relaxes the prohibition 
upon the mutual approaches of the two persons to each other’s 
persons and as regard the sexual approach makes ‘^the 
wrongest thing in the world the rightest thing in the world.” ° 
The pair usually leave the homes of their parents at once and 
begin to make a home of their own; the woman drops the name 
of her father for the name of her husband/ 

A heavy taboo, supported by law and by both religious and 
popular sanctions, rests upon sexual relationships between per- 
sons who are not married. There appears to be some tentative 
relaxing of this taboo among the younger generation, but in 
general it is as strong today as in the county-seat of forty years 
ago. There is some evidence that in the smaller community of 
the eighties in which everybody knew everybody else, the group 
prohibition was outwardly more scrupulously observed than 
today. A man who was a young buck about town in the eighties 
says, “The fellows nowadays don’t seem to mind being seen on 
the street with a fast woman, but you bet we did then !” That 
all was not serene underneath, particularly after the influx of 
population accompanying the gas boom, appears from various 
items in the local press in 1890: 

“In looking over the Board of Health statistics ... I noticed 
in the birth records , . . that some of our prominent citizens are 

■*Two per cent, of the 1890 officiating persons and 3 per cent, of the 1923 
groty could not be identified. Figures here are for the entire county. 

« Advances prior to marriage are traditionally made entirely by the man, 
but, as suggested in Ch.^ XI, there is an increasing aggressiveness on the part 
or the girls in the activity preliminary to mating. 

® There is occasional talk in the community of a woman^s “keeping her 
own nanie, but no woman in Middletown, follows this practice, and it is 
sharply frowned upon by the group. 



given the credit of being the father of offspring of which women 
of very loose character are the mothers.” 

An editor “hopes that something can be done about the large 
number of ‘street walkers" which are to be seen every evening."" 

“This morning an officer requested the Times to state that he 
had of late seen a number of married men in company with dis- 
reputable characters and that after this date every one so detected 
will be arrested and exposed."" 

By 1900 the rough-and-tumble industrial influx is reflected in 
the press in such headlines as “The Bowery Outdone in [Middle- 
town]"": “A traveling man who has visited both the universally 
notorious Bowery in New York City and the locally notorious 
High Street theater asserts that for downright lewdness and im- 
morality the former is outdone by the latter."’ 

Editorials posed the question, “What does [Middletown] 
need?"" and answered: “Mayors and police officers who will guard 
boys and girls from dens of evil like High Street theater."" 

The city, according to a local historian, bore an “ill repute dur- 
ing its early career as a manufacturing city."" 

A former proprietor of one of the largest saloons in the city 
estimates the number of houses of prostitution about 1890 as 
twenty-five, and an old iron puddler estimates twenty, both 
agreeing on four to eight girls per house. In 1915 a state act 
was passed providing for injunction and abatement of houses 
of prostitution, thereby driving the institution underground.’' 
Today conditions fluctuate in Middletown. Within ten years 
a group of public officials is reported to have conducted Middle- 
town as a “wide-open town” in which city officials, later sent 
to the Federal penitentiary, were alleged to have a financial in- 
terest in “the red-light district.” At the present time there are 
reported to be only two or three fly-by-night, furtively con- 
ducted houses of prostitution, catering exclusively to the work- 
ing class, but a comparison with 1890 on this point is fruitless. 

The description in the Cleveland Hospital and Health Survey of this new 
type of prostitution to some extent among girls nominally employed at other 
occupations probably applies in a general way to Middletown; it concludes, 
“How far the activities of such amateur prostitutes make up for the re- 
duction in the activities of the professionals no one knows. The doctors 
testify, however, that a large number of their men patients claim to have 
been infected by such amateurs.” Part V, Venerecd Disease (Qeveland; 
Cleveland Hospital Council, 1920), pp. 420-1. 



because, as the judge of the juvenile court points out, ''the 
automobile has become a house of prostitution on wheels.’^ 

The choice of a mate in marriage is nominally hedged about 
by certain restrictions — ^legal, religious, and customary. Legal 
stipulations, substantially the same as a generation ago, pro- 
hibit marriage between a white and a negro, by an insane per- 
son, an imbecile or epileptic, by a person having a transmissible 
disease, or, within certain limits, by a male who has within five 
years been a public charge, by a person whose former mar- 
riage has not been dissolved, by a person under the influence 
of liquor or narcotics, and by a man under eighteen and a 
woman under sixteen years. Other requirements implicitly 
recognized by law appear from the allowable grounds for dis- 
solution of a marriage: sexual exclusiveness, living together 
in the same home, financial support of the wife by the husband, 
sufficient mutual consideration to exclude "crueF’ treatment, 
sufficient "sobriety"’ and "morality” to avoid charges of "hab- 
itual drunkenness” and "criminal conviction.” Religious re- 
quirements, today as in the nineties, vary somewhat from one 
religious group to another, but concern two main points : the 
nominal prohibition by Catholics of marriage "outside the 
Church” and a corresponding though weaker sentiment among 
Protestants against marriage to a Catholic; and, second, a 
varying but somewhat lessening emphasis upon the permanence 
of marriage whereby a few religious leaders refuse to remarry 
a divorced person. Some ministers would refuse to marry per- 
sons living in "open [sexual] sin,” though the marriage cere- 
mony is commonly regarded as the accepted means of regular- 
izing such individuals. 

Further informal demands, made by the fluid sentiments of 
the group, have apparently altered little since the nineties, 
although they have been given somewhat greater legal recog- 
nition.® Foremost among these is the demand for romantic 
love as the only valid basis for marriage. Theoretically, it is 
the mysterious attraction of two young people for each other 
and that alone that brings about a marriage, and actually most 
of Middletown stumbles upon its partners in marriage guided 

8 Loss of affection after marriage was not legally recognized as sufficient 
reason for dissolving a marriage until recent years, but in 1924 divorces 
were granted to couples who came into court frankly saying, “We have no 
affection for each other and do not want to live together,” and “She says she 
does not love me and does not want to live with me.” 



chiefly by “romance.” ® Middletown adults appear to regard 
romance in marriage as something which, like their religion, 
must be believed in to hold society together. Children are 
assured by their elders that “love” is an unanalyzable mystery 
that “just happens” — “You’ll know when the right one comes 
along,” they are told with a knowing smile. And so young 
Middletown grows up singing and hearing its fathers sing 
lustily in their civic clubs such songs as : 

“It had to be you. 

It had to be you. 

I wandered around and finally found 
The Somebody who 

Could make me true, could make me blue. 

And even glad just to be sad 
Thinking of you. 

Some others I’ve seen might never be mean. 

Might never be cross, or try to be boss. 

But they wouldn’t do, 

For nobody else gave me a thrill. 

With all your faults I love you still. 

It had to be you, wonderful you. 

It had to be you.” 

And yet, although theoretically this “thrill” is all-sufficient to 
insure permanent happiness, actually talks with mothers re- 
vealed constantly that, particularly among the business group, 
they were concerned with certain other factors ; the exclusive 
emphasis upon romantic love makes way as adolescence recedes 
for a pragmatic calculus. Mothers of the business group give 
much consideration to encouraging in their children friendships 
with the “right” people of the other sex, membership in the 
“right” clubs, deftly warding off the attentions of boys whom 

9 Cf. the discussion in Ch. VI of the equally casual method by which 
Middletown youths stumble upon the kind of work by which they forever 
after earn their living. The casualness of procedure in both these c^ses is 
probably traceable in part to the same inherited conceptions regarding the 
indivi dual’s '‘freedom” and “rationality.” 

The close identification of love with the religious life of the group has 
tended to import into courtship some of the same inscrutability that envelops 
the religious life of Middletown. By the same token the religious taboo upon 
“carnal love” has carried over into the situation so that, although sexual 
exclusiveness in marriage is demanded both by law and custom, virtually no 
direct consideration is given prior to marriage to the physical and sexual 
compatibility of the two contracting parties. Cf. the discussicai of sex in- 
struction to the young in Chapter XI. 



they regard it as undesirable for their daughters to ^^see too 
much of,” and in other ways interfering with and directing the 
course of true love. 

Among the chief qualifications sought by these mothers, be- 
yond the mutual attraction of the two young people for each 
other, are, in a potential husband, the ability to provide a good 
living, and, in a wife of the business class, the ability, not only 
to ^^make a home” for her husband and children, but to set them 
in a secure social position. In a world dominated by credit this 
social function of the wife becomes, among the business group, 
more subtle and important ; the emphasis upon it shades down as 
we descend in the social scale until among the rank and file of 
the working class the traditional ability to be a good cook and 
housekeeper ranks first. 

^'Woman,” as Dorothy Dix^^ says, '^makes the family’s social 
status, . . . The old idea used to be that the way for a woman to 
help her husband was by being thrifty and industrious, by . . . 
peeling the potatoes a little thinner, and . . . making over her 
old hats and frocks. . . . But the woman who makes of herself 
nothing but a domestic drudge ... is not a help to her husband. 
She is a hindrance . . . and ... a man’s wife is the show 
window where he exhibits the measure of his achievement. . . . 
The biggest deals are put across over luncheon tables; . . . we 
meet at dinner the people who can push our fortunes. . . . The 
woman who cultivates a circle of worth-while people, who belongs 
to clubs, who makes herself interesting and agreeable ... is a 
help to her husband. . . 

Not unrelated to this social skill desired in a wife is the im- 
portance of good looks and dress for a woman. In one of 

References will be made to Dorothy Dix from time to time in the fol- 
lowing discussion of what the group demands of marriage. Day after day 
two columns of s3Tidicated advice to ‘‘Desolate/’ “A Much-disturbed Hus- 
band/’ “Young Wife/’ etc., appear in the leading Middletown paper from 
this elderly lady. This is perhaps the most potent single agency of diffusion 
from without shaping the habits of thought of Middletown in regard to 
marriage and possibly represents Middletown’s views on marriage more 
completely than any other one available source. Of the 109 wives of working 
men interviewed giving information on this point, 51 said that they read 
Dorothy Dix^ regularly and 17 occasionally, while of 29 wives of the business 
class answering on this point 16 read this column regularly and 10 occa- 
sionally. Her advice is iscussed by mothers and daughters as they sew 
together at Ladies’ Aid meetings and many of them say that her column is 
the first and sometimes the only thing which they read every day in the 
paper. Her remarks were quoted with approval in a Sunday morning sermon 
by the man commonly regarded as the “most intellectual” minister in town. 



Marion Harland^s Talks ^ so popular in Middletown in the 
nineties, one reads, “Who would banish from our midst the 
matronly figures so suggestive of home, comfort, and motherly 
love?'' Today one cannot pick up a magazine in Middletown 
without seeing in advertisements of everything from gluten 
bread to reducing tablets instructions for banishing the ma- 
tronly figure and restoring “youthful beauty." “Beauty par- 
lors" were unknown in the county-seat of the nineties; there 
are seven in Middletown today. 

“Good looks are a girl’s trump card," says Dorothy Dix, though 
she is quick to add that much can be done without natural beauty 
if you “dress well and thereby appear 50 per cent, better-looking 
than you are . . . make yourself charming," and “cultivate bridge 
and dancing, the ability to play jazz and a few outdoor sports." 

Emphasis upon the function of the man in marriage as “a 
good provider" and of the woman as home-maker, child-rearer, 
and, among the bulk of the business group, social pace-setter, is 
far-reaching as affecting the attitude of the sexes toward each 
other. In general, “brains" tend to be regarded as of small im- 
portance in a wife; as one of the city's most “two-fisted" young 
business men announced to the high school seniors at a Rotary 
high school “chapel," “The thing girls get from high school 
is the ability to know how; to choose a Teal one’ from a ‘near 
one.' When a girl gets around eighteen or so I begin to expect 
her to get married." 

Middletown husbands, when talking frankly among them- 
selves, are likely to speak of women as creatures purer and 
morally better than men but as relatively impractical, emo- 
tional, unstable, given to prejudice, easily hurt, and largely in- 
capable of facing facts or doing hard thinking. “You simply 
cannot criticize or talk in general terms to a woman," emphat' 
ically agreed a group of the city's most thoughtful men. 
“There's something about the female mind that always short- 
circuits a general statement into a personal criticism.” A school 
official, approached regarding the possibility of getting a woman 
on the school board, replied that “with only three people on the 
board there isn't much place for a woman.” In a group of 
prominent Middletown men a- suggested new form of social 
grouping came up in conversation and was promptly downed 
because “the women couldn't abide by it. Woman is the most 



tmselfish creature on earth within her family, but with outsiders 
she is quick to imagine snubs to her family, bristle up, and be- 
come unsocial/' 

Middletown wives appear In part to accept the impression of 
them that many of their husbands have. ‘'Men are God’s trees; 
women are his flowers," and “True womanliness is the great- 
est charm of woman," the recent mottoes of two of the local 
federated women’s clubs, suggest little change from the pre- 
vailing attitude reflected in a commencement essay in 1891, 
“Woman Is Most Perfect When Most Womanly." At a 
local political dinner the talk about one of the tables turned to 
women’s smoking and a woman politician said with an air of 
finality: “Women have to be morally better than men. It is they 
who pull men up or cause their downfall." Women, on the other 
hand, are frequently heard to express the opinion, accompanied 
by a knowing smile, that “Men are nothing but big little boys 
who have never grown up and must be treated as such." 

In general, a high degree of companionship is not regarded 
as essential for marriage.^^ There appears to be between Mid- 
dletown husbands and wives of all classes when gathered to- 
gether in informal leisure-time groups relatively little spon- 
taneous community of interest. The men and women frequently 
either gravitate apart into separate groups to talk men’s talk 
and women’s talk, or the men do most of the talking and the 
women largely listen. Even since women have been allowed to 
vote with men some tendency persists for women of all classes 
to depend in such practical matters upon the opinions of their 

The following is part of a tribute to woman read with general approval 
at the close of a meeting of another of the local women’s federated clubs 
in 1924: “There is a being, the image and reflection of whom is ever 
present in the mirror of my soul. Her words are like enchanted echoes in a 
beautiful dell and her laughter like the sweetness of the bursting magnolia 
and her beauty like the smiling violet and the laughing morning glory. The 
sound of her footstep is like that of a messenger bearing gifts from a queen, 
and her touch like the gentle zephyrs fanning the tired brow of a weary 
traveler, and her presence like an altar of holiness and benediction. That 
spirit has taught me to revere heaven’s divinest gift to the world — ^woman- 

^ 12 It may not be wholly fantastic to surmise that there may be some 
significance for the understanding of the basis of local marital association 
in the hierarchy of terms by which local women speak of their husbands. 
There is a definite ascent of man in his conjugal relations as one goes up 
in the social scale, from “my old man” through “the man,’' “he” (most fre- 
quent), “the mister,’^ “John,” “My husband,” to “Mr. Jones.’* The first four 
are the common terms among the working class families and the last two 
amoncr business class families. 



husbands ''coming in from the outside/^ as Dorothy Dix puts 
it, "with the breath of the fighting world about them.” 

Companionship between husband and wife in sheer play 
varies greatly in different families ; among the business group 
who belong to the country club, e.g., husbands frequently play 
eighteen holes of "real golf” with a male "foursome” Sunday 
morning and possibly a concessionary "one round with the wife 
in the afternoon just to make her feel good.” One wife who 
makes "a definite effort to do things” with her husband says 
that she has achieved this at the cost of cutting herself off from 
much of the routine social life of the community: 

^‘My husband, my children, and what community work I have 
time for after them are my job. I have gradually withdrawn from 
the social activities of the wives of my husband’s business asso- 
ciates because most of these women seem absorbed in activities 
tliat do not include their husbands. That is just the sort of thing 
that leads to the break-up of families and I don’t see why I and 
my family should be exempt from the things that befall other 

One of the commonest joint pursuits of husbands and wives is 
playing cards with friends. A few read aloud together, but this 
is relatively rare, as literature and art have tended to disappear 
today as male interests. More usual is the situation described 
by one prominent woman : "My husband never reads anything 
but newspapers or the American Magazine. He is very busy all 
day and when he gets home at night he just settles down with 
the paper and his cigar and the radio and just rests.” The auto- 
mobile appears to be an important agency in bringing husbands 
and wives together in their leisure, counteracting in part the 
centrifugal tendency in the family observable in certain other 
aspects of Middletown’s life.^® 

Among the working class, leisure activities and other rela- 
tions between married couples seem to swing about a somewhat 
shorter tether than do those of business folk. Not infrequently 
husband and wife meet each other at the end of a day’s work 
too tired or inert to play or go an3rwhere together; many of 
them have few if any close friends.^"^ In families where there is 
some financial leeway there are plans for an addition to the 

Cf. Chs. XVII and XVIII for fuller discussion of these leisure-time 

Cf. Ch. XIX on the decline of intimate friendships. 



house or perhaps the possibility of normal school for the chil- 
dren, which are spontaneous centers of interest and conversa- 
tion between husband and wife; in the sixty out of 122 families 
reporting who had automobiles, these and the trips they make 
possible form a chief center of interest ; in some cases there is 
talk of lodge affairs or the movies. But if, as in many fam- 
ilies, the necessities of shelter and food overshadow other plans, 
such conversation as there is may be of a bickering sort, or 
may lapse into apathetic silence. In a number of cases, after 
the interviewer had succeeded in breaking through an ap- 
parently impenetrable wall of reserve or of embarrassed fear, 
the housewife would say at the close of the talk, '"I wish you 
could come often. I never have any one to talk to,’^ or ^^My hus- 
band never goes any place and never does anything but work. 
You can talk to him, but he never says anything. In the eve- 
nings he comes home and sits down and says nothing. I like to 
talk and be sociable, but I can hardly ever get anything out 
of him.” 

This frequent lack of community of interests, together with 
the ideas each sex entertains regarding the other, appears in 
many families in a lack of frankness between husband and wife, 
far-reaching in its emotional outcome. ''One thing I always tell 
my young men when they marry,” said the only one of the six 
leading ministers who gives any instruction to people he mar- 
ries, "is that they must get^over any habit of thinking that they 
must be frank and tell everything they know to their wives.” 
Dorothy Dix urges : 

" 'Let well enough alone’ is a fine matrimonial slogan and as 
long as husband and wife are good actors it is the part of wisdom 
for their mates not to pry too deeply into the motives that inspire 
their conduct. . . . What we don't know doesn't hurt us in do- 
mestic life, and the wise do not try to find out too much." And 
again, "Nothing does more to preserve the illusions that a man 
and woman have about each other than the things they don't 
know.” ^ 

Traditionally this institution of marriage is indissoluble. 
"What God hath joined together let no man put asunder,” 
commands the religious marriage ritual. But the trend toward 

This is the land of maladjustment which may later figure in the divorce 
courte as “cold, grouchy, never says anything*’ or may lead to more violent 
reactions which figure as “cruel treatment” 



secularization noted in the performance of the marriage cere- 
mony appears even more clearly in the increased lifting of the 
taboo upon the dissolution of marriage. With an increase, be- 
tween 1890 and 1920, of 87 per cent, in the population of the 
county in which Middletown is located, the number of recorded 
divorces for the four years 1921-24 has increased 622 per 
cent, over the number of divorces in the county in the four years 
1889-92.^® There were nine divorces for each 100 marriage 
licenses issued in 1889 and eighteen in 1895.^’' After fluctuat- 
ing about the latter figure for fifteen years, the total in 1909 
first passed twenty-five divorces for each 100 marriage licenses, 
and six years later thirty. In 1918 it was fifty-four for each 
100 marriage licenses; 1919, thirty-nine; 1920, thirty-three; 
1921, fifty-five; 1922, forty; 1923, thirty-seven; 1924, forty- 

The frequency of divorces and the speed with which they 
are rushed through have become commonplaces in Middletown. 
^'Anybody with $25 can get a divorce’’ is a commonly heard 
remark. Or as one recently divorced man phrased it, ^‘Any one 
with $10 can get a divorce in ten minutes if it isn’t contested. 
AJl you got to do is to show non-support or cruelty and it’s a 
cinch.^’ Following are typical Sunday morning headlines after 
what the newspapers are wont to call the ^‘usual Saturday morn- 
ing divorce grind” ; 

“Court hears eighteen divorce suits; ten decrees granted and 
five dismissed, others pending.’' “Only one divorce case [out of 
twelve] is dismissed ; decrees granted in all other suits.” “Another 

See Table XL 

The State Biennial Reports do not give marriages prior to 1895 ; see N. 
accompanying Table XI for source of these figures. 

1® These figures do not take into consideration the number of divorce suits 
filed. In 1924, e.g., 477 married couples sought divorces in the county, while 
644 couples married — ^seventy-four couples seeking to dissolve marriage for 
each 100 couples seeking to marry. In March, 1925, fifty divorce actions were 
filed and only forty- four marriage licenses issued. Middletown’s behavior in 
this regard is part of a national trend; according to the Journal of Social 
Hygiene, “Thirty-one years ago the ratio of divorce to marriage was i to 
14.8. Ten years later, in 1905, the ratio was one divorce for every 6.7 mar- 
riages. For approximately the last fifty years, the period for which fairly 
accurate statistics are obtainable, the number of divorces has steadily tended 
to approach the number of marriages.” (Vol. XIII, No. i, January, 1927, 
p. 42.) 

Middletown is not a Reno. There is no appreciable influx of people from 
outside the county seeking divorces. 



gnst of divorces ground out by Judge “Judge hears 

six complaints for divorce; five decrees issued/' “Twenty-one di- 
vorce suits scheduled for hearing next Saturday/' “Woes of nine 
couples heard ; five husbands and three wives granted divorces ; 
one suit dropped/' 

Sttch casual comment is in marked contrast to the attitude of a 
generation ago when the State Statistician in presenting the an- 
nual divorce figures for the state in the Third Biennial Report 
for 1889-90 says, ''The following is the repulsive exhibit." 
Apparently this growing flexibility in attitude towards the 
marriage institution reacts back upon itself; one factor in the 
increasing frequency of divorce is probably the growing habit- 
uation to it.^® 

Some conception of the maladjustments underlying the de- 
cision of so many Middletown couples to terminate their mar- 
riage may be gained from the records of the courts/® combined 
with the comments of the women interviewed on their efforts 
at marital adjustment. “Cruel treatment" is the “cause" as- 
signed for the largest percentage of divorces for the county in 
which Middletown is located; a comparison of the stated 
causes for which divorces were granted in the two four-year 
periods 1889-92 and 1919-22 shows that marriages dissolved 
because of alleged cruelty have increased from 30 per cent, to 
52 per cent, of the total,^^ A charge of “cruelty" may cover al- 

Of the sixty-one wives of working men who expressed opinions con- 
cerning reasons for the prevalence of divorce, seventeen thought that 
marriage is “too easy” and five that divorce is “too easy.” Fourteen 
gave “women’s working” as the chief factor in divorces and fourteen 
“frivolity.” The other eleven women gave as the principal reason : 
“unemployment,” five; “sin,” three; “extravagance,” two; “wanting things 
they can’t afford,” one. 

20 See Table XIL 

It is not intended here to take the conventional forms under which divorce 
cases are pled as anything more than very roughly suggesting the real issue 
between the husband and wife. Often the real reason is pretty thoroughly 
disguised. Thus one man who was divorced for “non-support” stated 

privately that “She and I split up over the G d Klan. I couldn’t 

stand them around any longer.” 

2^ This trend towards relatively more divorces for “cruelty” is apparently 
part of a long-term national trend. According to Marriage and Divorce 
j 8 Sy-igo 6 , “A comparison of the earliest five-year period, that from 1867 
to 1871, with the latest, that from 1902 to 1906, shows that adultery has de- 
creased in relative importance as a cause while cruelty has increased.” 
(Department of Commerce Bulletin, No. 96, Second Edition, Revised and 
Enlarged, 1914, pp. 30-1*). 



most any variety of marital maladjustment, and the increase in 
divorces on this charge probably indicates chiefly a growing 
flexibility which allows divorces on other than specific charges 
such as ‘‘adultery” and “abandonment.’’ It is impossible to say 
to what extent this charge is connected with the sex relation, 
but it seems probable that, in some cases at least, the connec- 
tion is close. Many of the women interviewed voiced opinions 
similar to the statement of one woman: “Women never used to 
talk to each other about such things. Every woman used to 
think that other women had to put up with what she did because 
that is the way men are. Now they are beginning to wonder.” 
Time and time again the wife of a working man spoke with 
obvious emotion of the fact that the responsibility for the pre- 
vention of pregnancy was placed entirely upon her by a non- 
cooperative husband. 

Traditionally, voluntary control of parenthood is strongly 
tabooed in this culture, as is all discussion of sexual adjust- 
ment involved in mating, but this prohibition is beginning to be 
somewhat lifted, a fact perhaps not unrelated to the increasing 
secularization of marriage noted above. The widely divergent 
habits of different persons in regard to control of parenthood 
reveal strikingly the gap found in so many cases to exist be- 
tween the habits of different groups of people living together 
in the same community. All of the twenty-seven women of the 
business class who gave information on this point used or be- 
lieved in the use of some method of birth control and took it 
for granted. Only one woman spoke of being uncertain as to 
whether she had been wise in limiting her family as she had. 
Of the seventy-seven wives of workers from whom informa- 
tion was secured on this subject, only thirty-four said that 
they used any means of birth control; of these twelve were 
“careful,” two used primitive practices, only twenty used arti- 
ficial means that might be considered moderately scientific, 
and only half of these last employed means of the sort util- 
ized by the business class. Of the forty-three not using any 
means of birth control, fifteen vaguely approved of contracep- 
tion but did not use it because they thought it unnecessary in 
their individual cases ; fifteen definitely disapproved ; four were 
ignorant of all contraceptives except such as their husbands 
were unwilling to use ; and nine were eager for some means of 
control but totally ignorant of any. 



The following answers are characteristic of the women who 
definitely disapprove of use of contraceptives : 

*'God punishes people who deliberately tiy not to have children/’ 

‘‘Large families are hard, but it’s wrong to do anything about 
it. ni t^e what’s sent me/’ 

“Abortion is murder and birth control is just as bad.” 

“I’d like a small family but it’s not good for a person’s health 
to do anything to prevent having children.” 

“God told Eve to be fruitful and multiply and if he had wanted 
her to regulate the number of children he would have told her 
so. I have had eleven children and there ain’t nobody has better 
health than I have. He often says how much better otf I am than 
if I had taken things as some do.” 

Judging from the fact that a number of those who had tried 
to use some kind of contraceptives had been unsuccessful in 
preventing conception and from certain vague statements which 
had to be listed as “Not answered,” the following comments of 
some of these women seem to suggest an underlying bewilder- 
ment considerably more widespread and more pervasive of the 
rest of their lives than the figures taken by themselves would 
indicate : 

One wife “hopes to heaven” she’ll have no more children. She 
said that people talked to her about contraceptives sometimes, and 
she told “him” what they said, but he said it was none of their 
business. She had never dared ask him what he thought about 
birth control, but thought he disapproved of it. She would “die” 
if she had any more children but is doing nothing to prevent it. 

“Men will not stand for use of things to prevent having chil- 
dren,” said another. “This is one cause of divorce.” 

Another woman complained that the contraceptives which she 
obtained had not prevented her having a sixth child, and when 
asked why she did not try something else said, “I’m ashamed ; I 
would never have asked for these if some one had not told me 
about them/’ 

A mother of eight children had found that certain home-made 
contraceptives worked for three years and then she became preg- 
nant again. “I could not believe it. I went to the doctor just all 



of a tremble. My sister-in-law says these things helped her biit I 
guess nothing can help me. And I’ve been sick ever since the baby 

A woman who has had five children in six years knew of no 
way to prevent pregnancy and said that her husband would not 
find out for her. “He doesn’t care how many children I have.” 

A wife of twenty-two replied to the question about number of 
children: “We haven’t any. Gracious, no! We mustn’t have any 
till we get steady work. No, we don’t use anything to prevent 
children. I just keep away from my husband. He don’t care — only 
at times. He’s discouraged because he’s out of work. I went to 
work but had to quit because I was so nervous.” 

Another woman, the wife of a molder, a tired-looking, neatly 
dressed woman of forty-seven with seven children, had recently 
had to go to work because her married daughter came back home 
with two children and the burden of a family of eleven was too 
much for the husband. “My daughter and her husband — ^he’s a 
machinist — didn’t know anything about birth control, and they had 
a second baby and then she insisted that they keep apart until 
his work was regular enough to support a larger family. He 
wouldn’t and she left him and came home to us here while she 
was still nursing her second baby. I certainly believe in birth 
control ! But I don’t know an3rthing about it. I never even heard 
of it until a little while ago. I sure wish I had known of it when 
I was young, for then he wouldn’t be slaving away to support 
this big family and my daughter wouldn’t be in all the trouble 
she’s in.” 

The behavior of the community in this matter of the volun- 
tary limitation of parenthood — ^in this period of rapidly chang- 
ing standards of living, irregular employment, the increasing 
isolation and mobility of the individual family, growing em- 
phasis upon child-training and upon education and other long- 
term family plans such as insurance and enforced home owner- 
ship on a time payment basis — presents the appearance of a 
pyramid. At the top, among most of the business group, the use 
of relatively efficacious contraceptive methods appears prac- 
tically universal, while sloping down from this peak is a mixed 
array of knowledge and ignorance, until the base of ignorance 
is reached. Here fear and worry over pregnancy frequently 

22 This woman was not included in the 124 sample families as she had no 
children, but was one of those interviewed on unemployment. 


walk hand in hand with discouragement as to the future of the 
husband's job and the dreaded lay-off.^^ 

Although the court records show that the proportion of di- 
vorces for a listed cause of ‘'non-support' ' has remained sta- 
tionary since 1890, according to a Middletown lawyer handling 
many divorce cases, “seventy-five per cent, of the people seek- 
ing divorces are women, and two-thirds of the women ask di- 
vorce for non-support." Talks with the women interviewed 
would seem to indicate that economic considerations figure pos- 
sibly more drastically than formerly as factors in divorce. This 
does not necessarily mean that the husband has failed to pro- 
vide food and shelter for his wife, but it does indicate that in 
some way their economic adjustment has broken down and tliat 
the wife would rather get her own living than continue trying 
to seek an adjustment with her husband. The frequent lack of 
frankness between husband and wife noted above appears often 
in the handling of money matters ; adjustments like the follow- 
ing, if not actually the rule, are common : 

A business man's wife said that she “used to believe there 
was no reason why a woman should not work if she wanted to 
and that it isn't necessary for a man to have a woman dependent 
upon him to make a fine character of him, as husband and wife 
could be held together simply by their mutual affection. I believe 
now, though, that a man simply gets into the habit when his wife 
is not economically dependent of believing that she doesn’t need 
money, and so he goes and spends it on some other woman.” 

A wife of one of the less prominent business men, a self- 
respecting woman with children in college, said in a tone of 
fin^ty : “I never let my husband tell me anything about business 

The economic status of many of these women is reflected in 
the following appeal by one of them to the members of the mis- 
sionary society of the largest church in town: “Ask your hus- 
bands, who spend much on cigars and tobacco, for pennies for 
your mite boxes.” 

The wife of a foreman, a capable-looking woman with children 
in high school, said to the interviewer, “Marriage ought to be a 

23 It might be suggestive to inquire into the possible relation between a 
highly competitive medical profession in a pecuniary society (cf. Ch. XXV) 
and the lack of diffusion of knowledge of methods of contraception. 



partnership, hut we started out wrong by not sharing money 
matters. My husband doesn’t believe in telling such matters. I 
don’t know either how much he is earning or how much we save. 
I just know we are saving and that’s all. It was because of this 
that I went to work. I liked having my own money and my hus- 
band hated my having it. Men are to blame for women going out 
to work. They haven’t treated their wives fairly.” 

With the spread of the habit of married women’s working, 
women are less willing to continue an unsatisfactory marital ar- 
rangement. Said the lawyer quoted above, 'Tf a woman has 
ever worked at all she is much more likely to seek a divorce. 
It’s the timid ones that have never worked who grin and bear 
marriage. Unemployment always increases the number of 
women seeking a divorce.” In one sturdy, self-respecting fam- 
ily the daughter of twenty-three and the son of twenty-one 
have both been married and divorced and are living at home 
again : 

*^My daughter’s husband,” said the mother, ‘‘is at the house 
six days a week and they have an awfully good time together, but 
they just couldn’t get on about money matters. Now she has her 
own money and he has his and there’s no trouble. That was the 
trouble with my son and his wife, too. They split up over money.” 
This boy and girl had gone to public school until they were four- 
teen and fifteen respectively, but in this matter of handling money 
the thing that had shaped them had apparently been their parents’ 
example. The mother replied to the question as to her husband’s 
income, “Would you believe it, I don’t know any more than you 

24: There are a few families at the other extreme in which the husband 
turns over his pay check to his wife and she has entire charge of the house- 
hold economy, but these are rare. In between these two extremes are all 
manner of provisional, more or less bickering agreements. 

25 How attractive an alternative staying unmarried and earning one’s own 
living appears to some Middletown women is reflected in the comment of the 
wife of a worker who has had no unemployment since 1917, a woman of 
forty-one with four children, owning a car and a two-story home free of 
encumbrances: *‘A woman doing housework is never through. She can’t 
ever dress up, and she hasn’t any interest except in her home. A friend of 
mine with a good job in [the leading department store] married not long 
ago at thirty-four and I said to her, Why in the world do you want to get 
married at your age when you’ve got a good position?’” 

The growing independence of women was succinctly described by a dis- 
mayed citizen recently divorced by his "‘woman”: “Eveprbody’s getting a 
divorce. Why should a woman stay married if she don’t like a man and can 
get a job? Why, there’s so many working it’s getting so a man can’t get 
a woman to fry him a piece of meat or bake a pie !” 

Cf. N. IQ above, regarding the relation of women’s working and divorce. 



do — and married to him all these years! Mrs. was saying 

the other day she wouldn’t stand it. But she doesn’t know my 
man! He*s that close-mouthed! He gives me $io a week for 
myself and I get the children’s board money. He pays some bills. 
I only know we aren’t saving anything. I looked in the bank 
book and there hasn’t been an entry in two years.” 

The older generation in this family had weathered a marriage 
that was not economically satisfactory, but the present genera- 
tion is less content with such maladjustment today when spend- 
ing money is more in demand, jobs for women common, and 
divorce easy. 

Like “cruelty” and “non-support,’' “adultery” and “aban- 
donment” as alleged grounds for divorce indicate not isolated 
phenomena but a wide complex of factors leading to the fail- 
ure of husband and wife to achieve an adjustment. “ ‘Before 
the deserter there was a broken man,’ said a district secretary. 
... By this characterization she meant not necessarily a physi- 
cal or mental wreck, but a man bankrupt for the time being in 
health, hopes, prospects, or in all three.” It is significant that 
divorces for these specific causes are relatively less frequent 
today while divorces for “cruelty” and unclassified causes have 

The increasing number of divorces today for any of these 
alleged causes may indicate that a larger proportion of hus- 
bands and wives than formerly are failing to achieve a marital 
adjustment, or that people are tending to demand more of a 
tolerable marriage, and, failing to achieve an adjustment, seek 
the divorce courts. Many people in Middletown would probably 
agree with Dorothy Dix that : 

“The reason there are more divorces is that people are demand- 
ing more of life than they used to. . . . In former times . . . 
they expected to settle down to a life of hard work . . . and to 
putting up with each other. Probably men are just as good hus- 
bands now as they ever were, but grandmother had to stand 
grandpa, for he was her meal ticket and her card of admission 
to good society. A divorced woman was a disgraced woman. . . . 
But now we view the matter differently. We see that no good pur- 
pose is achieved by keeping two people together who have come 
to hate each other.” 

Joanna C. Colcord, Broken Homes (New York; Russell Sage Founda- 
tion, 1919), p. 17. 

2 *^ See Table XII. 



These greater demands on life, emphasizing inadequacies in 
marriage, rest back upon many other changes in the life of 
the city. 

The way in which these antecedents of divorce are imbedded 
in the whole complex of Middletown’s culture touching the ad- 
justments between a man and his wife is suggested by com- 
paring what Middletown regards as minimum essentials of mar- 
riage with conditions actually existing in many Middletown 
homes, particularly those of the working class, among whom, 
according to lawyers handling divorce cases, divorce is more 
frequent. The husband must ‘"support” his family, but, as 
pointed out above, recurrent “hard times” make support of 
their families periodically impossible for many workers; the 
wife must make a home for her husband and care for her chil- 
dren, but she is increasingly spending her days in gainful em- 
pIo3mient outside the home; husband and wife must cleave to 
each other in the sex relation, but fear of pregnancy frequently 
makes this relation a dread for one or both of them ; affection 
between the two is regarded as the basis of marriage, but 
sometimes in the day-after-day struggle this seems to be a mem- 
ory rather than a present help. Not one of the sixty-eight 
working class wives mentioned her husband in answering the 
question as to the things that give her “courage to go on when 
thoroughly discouraged.” More than one wife seems to think 
of her husband less as an individual than as a focus of prob- 
lems and fears — ^anxiety about loss of job, disappointment over 
failure in promotion, fear of conception — ^the center of a whole 
complex of things to be avoided. To many husbands their wives 
have become associated with weariness, too many children, and 
other people’s washings. It is out of such situations that the 
incidents which appear in the divorce courts as “cruel treat- 
ment,” “abandonment,” and “adultery” frequently arise. The 
effect of these various types of emotional maladjustment upon 
getting a living, child-rearing, and other activities can hardly 
be over-estimated. 

28 Cf. Chapter VIL 

29 Cf. Ch. XX. 

The nearest approach of any woman to thought of her husband was in 
the answer of one who said, think that when evening conies we’ll all be 
together again.” Very few business class women answered this question. No 
woman of either business or working class mentioned spending time with 
her husband as among the things she would like to do with an extra hour 
in the day. Cf. Ch. XIX, 



Amd yet it is easy by emphasizing only the more obvious and 
accessible facts to form a distorted picture of these Middletown 
homes. For a large number of them disappointment and anxiety 
may lurk steadily in the background, but they are not forever 
in the foreground. However drab or shadowed by fear these 
homes may be, there are always the plans for today and to- 
morrow, the pleasures of this half-hour, the “small duties and 
automatic responses to the custom of the daily round of living 
[which] imperceptibly but surely mitigate the tragedies and 
disappointments of existence.’^ 

Indeed it might seem that in many homes this response to 
custom is the most marked characteristic of marriage. There are 
some homes in Middletown among both working and business 
class families which one cannot enter without being aware of a 
constant undercurrent of sheer delight, of fresh, spontaneous 
interest between husband and wife. But such homes stand out 
by reason of their relative rarity. In others where this quality 
is less apparent, marriage is doubtless the deepest reality in the 
lives of the pair. For many couples, however, for whom 
thought of the divorce court may never figure even as a remote 
possibility, marriage seems to amble along at a friendly jog-trot 
marked by sober accommodation of each partner to his share in 
the joint undertaking of children, paying off the mortgage, and 
generally “getting on.” 

Chapter XI 


Child-bearing and child-rearing are regarded by Middletown 
as essential functions of the family. Although the traditional 
religious sanction upon “fruitfulness” has been somewhat re- 
laxed since the nineties, and families of six to fourteen chil- 
dren, upon which the grandparents of the present generation 
prided themselves, are considered as somehow not as “nice” as 
families of two, three, or four children,^ child-bearing is never- 
theless to Middletown a moral obligation. Indeed, in this urban 
life of alluring alternate choices, in which children are mouths 
instead of productive hands, there is perhaps a more self-con- 
scious weighting of the question with moral emphasis ; the pre- 
vailing sentiment is expressed in the editorial dictum by the 
leading paper in 1925 that “married persons who deliberately 
refuse to take the responsibility of children are reasonable tar- 
gets for popular opprobrium.” But with increasing regulation 
of the size of the family, emphasis has shifted somewhat from 
child-bearing to child-rearing. The remark of the wife of a 
prosperous merchant, “You just can^t have so many children 
now if you want to do for them. We never thought of going 
to college. Our children never thought of anything else,” rep- 
resents an attitude almost universal today among business 
class families and apparently spreading rapidly to the working 

^ The phenomenon of fewer children per married couple today is closely 
linked with many trends in the behavior of the community : higher standards 
of living; the relation of the wear and tear of pregnan^ upon women 
physically to the prevalent emphasis upon a woman’s ‘Staying young” ; the 
desire to release time and energy for club work and social pace-setting ; the 
growing tendency for both husband and wife to engage in getting a living ; 
and so on. 

Figures on infant mortality in Middletown are not available for 1890 and 
even those for recent years are not reliable. Obviously any shift here affects 
directly the size of family. Middletown has probably shared in the decline 
in infant mortality experienced by the rest of the country. Cf. Ch. XXV 
for discussion of the care of health in the city. 



The birth of the child tends to give him his place in the 
group many of the most important activities of his life, as 
noted in Chapter IV, are determined by the fact of his being 
bom into a family of workers’ or of business class habits and 
outlook. The rearing of the child in the home goes far toward 
shaping his more critical lifelong habits; the "'significance of 
the family as a transfer point of civilization cannot be over- 
estimated.” ® This transfer takes place not only through any 
training which his parents consciously set out to give him, but 
still more through the entire life of the home. From birth until 
the age of five or six a child is reared almost entirely in the 
individual home by his parents, under whatever conditions or 
according to whatever plan or lack of plan their habits and in- 
clinations may favor. He may live in a home where getting a 
living is the dominant concern of both parents or where the 
mother, at least, devotes much of her time to her children ; in 
a home of affection or of constant bickering; of any variety of 
religious or political affiliation or use of leisure; he may be 
*"made to mind” by spanking or bribing, or he may rule the 
house; he may be encouraged to learn or told "not to ask so 
many questions” ; he may be taught to tell the truth or laughed 
at as "cute” when he concocts little evasions — ^unless he is 
‘"cmelly treated” no one interferes. From five or six to twelve 
or thirteen the home still remains the dominant formal agency 
responsible for the child, but supplemented by compulsory 
schooling and by optional religious training and the increasing 
influence of playfellows. After the age of twelve or thirteen the 
place of the home tends to recede before a combination of other 
formative influences, until in the late teens the child is regarded 
as a kind of junior adult, increasingly independent of parental 

Child-rearing is traditionally conceived by Middletown 
chiefly in terms of making children conform to the approved 
ways of the group; a "good” home secures the maximum of 
conformity; a "bad” home fails to achieve it. But today the 
swiftly moving environment and multiplied occasions for con- 

2 Rivers speaks of the highly important function of marriage “as the 
means by which every individual bom into a society is assigned a definite 
place in that society. . . . Each child, -by virtue of t^ing bora as a child of 
a marriage, takes its place in the social structure.” (Social Organization, 
pp. 37-8.) 

8 Goldenweiser, op, cit, p. 239. 



tacts outside the home are making it more difficult to secure 
adherence to established group sanctions, and Middletown 
parents are wont to speak of many of their ‘"problems” as new 
to this generation, situations for which the formulae of their 
parents are inadequate. Even from the earliest years of the 
child’s life the former dominance of the home is challenged; 
the small child spends less time in the home than in the ample 
days of the nineties. Shrinkage in the size of the yard affords 
less play space."^ “Mother, where can I play?” wailed a small 
boy of six, as he was protestingly hauled into a tiny front yard 
from the enchanting sport of throwing ice at passing autos. 
“We had a large family,” said one mother, “and when things 
got jangled my father used to take one of us and say, "Let us 
go out under the stars and meditate.'’ I’d like to do that with my 
children, but we’d have to go up to the roof to see the stars!” 
The community has recently begun to institute public play- 
grounds, thereby hastening the passing of the time when a 
mother could “keep an eye on” the children in the home yard. 
The taking over of the kindergarten by the public schools in 
1924 offers to children of four and five an alternative to the 
home. “Why, even my youngster in kindergarten is telling us 
where to get off,” exclaimed one bewildered father. “He wonh 
eat white bread because he says they tell him at kindergarten 
that brown is more healthful !” 

Nor can parental authority reassert itself as completely as 
formerly by the passing on of skills from father to son. Less 
often does a son learn his trade at his father’s work bench, per- 
haps being apprenticed under him,® nor do so many daughters 
learn cooking or sewing at their mothers’ side; more than a few 
of the mothers interviewed said unhappily that their daugh- 
ters, fresh from domestic science in school, ridicule the mothers’ 
inherited rule-of-thumb practices as “old-fashioned.” ® 

The growing tendency for working class mothers to work 

4Cf. Ch. IX. 

® Cf. in Ch. VI the tendency for sons of Middletown workers to desert 
their fathers* lines of work. 

® In addition to courses in cooking and dress-making, a new course in child 
care and nutrition has recently been introduced into one school. Cf. Ch. XIV 
on vocational and domestic science courses. 

In the nineties the mother-daughter method of handing down household 
knowledge was emphasized perhaps even more than today by the conserva- 
tive influence of the physical shell of the home. As each fresh generation of 
married couples could afford only older houses and tended to have their 



outside the home has accelerated the assumption by the group 
of even some of the more intangible functions of parents. Fol- 
lowing the war a “Dean of Women” was appointed in the high 
school to stand, according to the local press, in loco parentis: 

“It was found impossible for mothers who worked during the 
day and were busy with household duties during the evening to 
give proper time to the boy and girl in school. ... It was deemed 
necessary to have women in the schools who were sufficiently 
interested in boys and girls ... to devote their entire time to 
working with and for them. ... It is the dean’s business to help 
solve their problems along every line — social, religious, and edu- 
cational.” ^ 

And, with entry into high school, the agencies drawing the 
child away from home multiply. Athletics, dramatics, commit- 
tee meetings after school hours demand his support ; Y.M.C.A., 
Y.W.C.A., Boy Scouts, Girl Reserves, the movies, auto-riding 
— ^all extra-neighborhood concerns unknown to his parents in 
their youth — ^are centers of interest; club meetings, parties or 
dances, often held in public buildings,® compete for his every 
evening. A “date” at home is “slow” compared with motoring, 
a new film, or a dance in a near-by town. It is not surprising 
that both boys and girls in the three upper years of the high 
school marked the number of times they go out on school nights 
and the hour they get in at night more frequently than any other 
sources of friction with their parents,® and that approximately 

habits more or less fixed in this form by the time they were able to build, 
home-making processes tended to become solidified in the mold of an earlier 
generation. The recent rapid diffusion of credit devices for building new 
houses and of new labor-saving devices for use in the home operates with the 
dcmiestic science work in the school and the spread of woman's magazines 
to interrupt the sequence of mother-daughter inheritance. 

^ The actual work performed by the Dean of Women falls as yet con- 
siderably short of this statement, but the significant point here is that the 
new office is actually so conceived. 

® Cf. Ch. XVIII and XIX for a discussion of the multiplication of these 
formal leisure-time activities. 

® Of 348 boys and 382 girls, high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors, 
checking a list of twelve possible sources of disagreement with their parents, 
45 per cent, of the boys and 43 per cent, of the girls checked “the hour 
you get in at night” and 45 per cent, of the boys and 48 per cent, of the 
girls “the number of times you go out on school nights.” Most persons 
checked more than one item, making the totals more than 100 per cent. See 
Table XIII and Ch. XVIII. The boys answering these questionnaires were 
almost evenly divided between workinc: class and business class parents (cf, 
Ch. VI for distribution of these boysj. 



half of the hoys and girls answering the question say that they 
are at home less than four evenings out of the week/® “I’ve 
never been criticized by my children until these last couple of 
years since they have been in high school,” said one business 
class mother, “but now both my daughter and older son keep 
saying, 'But, Mother, you’re so old-fashioned.’ ” “My daugh- 
ter of fourteen thinks I am 'cruel’ if I don’t let her stay at a 
dance until after eleven,” said another young mother. “I tell her 
that when I was her age I had to be in at nine, and she says, 
'Yes, Mother, but that was fifty years ago.’ ” 

With the diminishing place of the home in the life of the 
child comes the problem of “early sophistication,” as business 
class parents put it, or “children of twelve or fourteen now- 
adays act just like grown-ups,” in the words of workers’ wives. 
A few of the wealthier parents have reluctantly sent their chil- 
dren away to school, largely in order that they may avoid the 
sophisticated, early-maturing social life which appears to be 
almost inescapable. As one listens to the perplexity of mothers 
today, the announcement in the local press in 1900 that “Be- 
ginning March first, curfew bell will be rung at 9 p.m. instead 
of 8 P.M.” seems very remote. 

“What can we do,” protested one mother, “when even church 
societies keep such late hours? My boy of fifteen is always sup- 

Three hundred and ninety-six boys and 458 girls, high school sopho- 
mores, juniors, and seniors answered the question, “How many evenings in 
the past seven were you home all evening from supper to bed time?"" as 
follows : 

Per cent of Boys Per cent, of Girls 

Home no evenings . . . 
Home one evening . . 
Home two evenings . 
Home three evenings 
Home four evenings 
Home five evenings . 
Home six evenings . 
Home seven evenings 


,• 19 

: IX 


, 13 


. 15 


- 14 


. 9 


. 7 


. .100 


In other words, 55 per cent of the boys and 44 per cent of the girls had 
been at home less than four evenings out of the last seven. The somewhat 
greater mobility in the case of the boys is possibly significant. 

In order to guard against securing data for an exceptional week, the ques- 
tionnaire asked the students also to state the number of evenings they were 
usually at home during a typical week if it differed from the week just 
passed. This showed practically no difference. 

Cf. in Ch. XVIII the figures on movie attendance. 



posed to be home by eleven, but a short time ago the Young 
People’s Society of the church gave a dance, with the secretary 
of the Mothers’ Council in charge, and dancing was from nine 
to twelve ! And so few mothers will do anything about it. My son 
was eleven when he went to his first dance and we told him to be 
home by ten-thirty. I knew the mother of the girl he was taking 
and called her up to tell her my directions. 'Indeed, I’m not 
telling my daughter anything of the kind,’ she said ; 'I don’t want 
to interfere with her good time I’ ” 

‘*We haven’t solved the problem,” said another conscientious 
mother. “Last year we seriously considered sending our daughter 
away to school to get away from this social life. We try to make 
home as much a center as possible and keep refreshments on hand 
so that the children can entertain their friends here, but it isn’t 
of much use any more. There is always some party or dance 
going on in a hotel or some other public place. We don’t like 
the children to go out on school nights, but it’s hard always to 
refuse. Last night it was a Hallowe’en party at the church and 
tonight a dramatic club dance at the high school. Even as it is, 
we’re a good deal worried about her; she’s beginning to feel dif- 
ferent from the others because she is more restricted and not 
allowed to go out as much as they do.” 

Almost every mother tells of compromise somewhere. “I never 
would have believed I would have let my daughter join so many 
clubs,” said one thoughtful mother of a high school girl. “I have 
always criticized people who did it. But when it comes right down 
to it, I want to minimize the boy^nterest, and filling her life full 
of other things seems to be the only way to do that. She belongs 
to three high school clubs besides the Matinee Musicale and a 
Y.W.CA. club.” 

Another woman, criticized by her neighbors for letting her 
children “run wild,” insists that the only difference between her 
and other mothers is that she knows where her children are and 
the other mothers don’t: “I wish you could know the number of 

girls who come over here and then go to [a much-criticized 

public dance resort fifteen miles away]. They say, ‘Well, it’s 
perfectly all right if you keep with your own crowd, but I can’t 
explain it to mother, so I just don’t tell her.’ ” 

One working class mother said that she no longer lets her chil- 
dren go to church on Sunday evening “because that’s just an ex- 
cuse to get out-of-doors and away from home.” 

Cf. in Ch. XII the discussion of the emphasis upon clothing at dances as 
a part of this early sophistication. 



Late nights away from home bring further points of strain 
over grades at school and use of the car. The former is ranked 
by both boys and girls as third among the sources of disagree- 
ment with their parents.^^ 

‘'That crowd of girls was as fine as any in school two years 
ago/’ lamented one high school teacher. “Now they all belong to 
two or three clubs and come to me morning after morning, heavy- 
eyed, with work not done, and tell of being up until twelve or 
one the night before. Their parties used to begin earlier and end 
earlier, but now it isn’t a party if it breaks up before midnight.” 

Use of the automobile ranks fifth among the boys and fourth 
among the girls as a source of disagreement.^® The extensive 
use of this new tool by the young has enormously extended 
their mobility and the range of alternatives before them ; join- 
ing a crowd motoring over to dance in a town twenty miles 
away may be a matter of a moment’s decision, with no one’s 
permission asked. Furthermore, among the high school set, 
ownership of a car by one’s family has become an important 
criterion of social fitness : a boy almost never takes a girl to a 
dance except in a car ; there are persistent rumors of the buying 
of a car by local families to help their children’s social standing 
in high school. 

The more sophisticated social life of today has brought with 
it another “problem” much discussed by Middletown parents, 
the apparently increasing refeation^of some of the traditional 
prohibitions upon the approaches of boys and girls to each 
other’s persons. Here again new inventions of the last thirty- 
five years have played a part; in 1890 a “well-brought-up” boy 
and girl were commonly forbidden to sit together in the dark; 
but motion pictures and the automobile have lifted this taboo, 
and, once lifted, it is easy for the practice to become widely 
extended. Buggy-riding in 1890 allowed only a narrow range 
of mobility; three to eight were generally accepted hours for 
riding, and being out after eight-thirty without a chaperon was 
largely forbidden. In an auto, however, a party may go to a 
city halfway across the state in an afternoon or evening, and 
unchaperoned automobile parties as late as midnight, while sub- 

12 See Table XIIL Forty per cent, of the boys and 31 per cent, of the girls 
marked it as a source of friction. 

Thirty-six per cent, of the boys and 30 per cent of the girls marked 
it as a source of friction. 



ject to criticism, are not exceptional. The wide circulation 
among high school students of magazines of the True Story 
variety and the constant witnessing of ""sex films” tend to ren- 
der familiar postures and episodes taken much less for granted 
in a period lacking these channels of vivid diffusion.^^ 

The relaxing of parental control combines with the decrease 
in group parties to further the greater exclusiveness of an in- 
dividual couple. In the nineties, according to those who were in 
high school then, ""We all went to parties together and came 
home together. If any couple did pair off, they were consid- 
ered rather a joke.’’ Today the press accounts of high school 
dub dances are careful to emphasize the escort of each girl 
attending. The number of separate dances at a dance is smaller 
and there is much more tendency for each individual to dance 
with fewer partners, in some cases to dance the entire evening 
with one person. ""When you spend four or five dollars to drag 
a girl to a dance,” as one boy put it, ""you don’t want her to 
spend the evening dancing with every one else.” 

In such a grown-up atmosphere it is hardly surprising that 
the approaches of the sexes seem to be becoming franker. 
Forty-eight per cent, of 241 junior and senior boys and 51 per 
cent, of 315 junior and senior girls marked ""true” the extreme 
statement, ""Nine out of every ten boys and girls of high 
school age have "petting parties.’ ” In the questionnaire given 

Chs. XVII and XVIII for discussion of these leisure-time activi- 
ties. The impact of these new streams of diffusion is apparent in the habits 
of such a girl as the following, a healthy seventeen-year-old high school girl, 
popular in school and the daughter of a high type of worker, who happened 
to be known personally to members of the research staff. She attends the 
movies twice a week (she had been home only one evening in the last seven) 
and reads regularly every week or month Snappy Stories, Short Stories, 
Cosmopolitan, True Story, Liberty, People's Popular Monthly, Woman's 
Weekly, Gentlewoman, and Collier's. She and her parents are at loggerheads 
most often, she says, about the way she dresses, and after that, about her 
use of the family Ford and about her boy and girl friends. Along with these 
evidences of divergence from the ways of her parents, she still maintains 
the family religious tradition, being an indefatigable church worker and 
Sunday School teacher. 

The possible relation of popular songs to the courtship habits of 1890 and 
today should not be overlooked. In the ballads of a generation ago — “After 
the Ball,'" “Airy, Fairy Lillian," “On a Bicycle Made for Two" — lovers 
might sit together in the moonlight, “hands touching lightly," or perhaps in 
the bolder songs there was a solitary kiss or “squeeze," but rarely was there 
the “I'll-hold-you-enfold-you" quality of the songs to which young Middle- 
town dances dreamily today. 

^ ® Thirty-five per cent, of the boys marked this “false," 15 per cent, “un- 
certain," and 2 per cent, did not answer. Thirty-eight per cent of the girls 



to sophomores, juniors, and seniors, 44 per cent, of the 405 
boys answering the questionnaire (88 per cent, of the 201 an- 
swering this question) and 34 per cent, of the 464 girls an- 
swering the questionnaire (78 per cent, of the 205 answering 
this question) signified that they had taken part in a ^'petting 
party’’ by checking one or another of the reasons listed for 
doing so — ^though, of course, data of this sort are peculiarly 
open to error.^^ There is a small group of girls in the high 
school who are known not to allow ^"petting.” These girls are 
often ^Tespected and popular” but have less “dates” ; the larger 
group, “many of them from the ‘best families,’ ” with whom 
“petting parties” are not taboo, are said to be much more fre- 
quently in demand for movies, dances, or automobile parties. 
Stimulated in part, probably, by the constant public watching of 
love-making on the screen, and in part, perhaps, by the sense of 
safety in numbers, the earlier especially heavy ban upon love- 
making in public is being relaxed by the young. Such reasons 
as the following given by high school students for taking part 

marked it “false/’ 10 per cent, “uncertain,” and i i>er cent, did not answer. 

There is, of course, no way to check the number of flippant answers to 
such a question. Students were urged to leave questions blank rather than 
not answer them seriously. Informal conversation with some of the students 
afterwards confirmed in general the feeling of those who gave the ques- 
tionnaires to the classes that most of the students were trying to answer them 
seriously. One boy said, ^‘1 think I answered one question wrong. I put ‘true’ 
after *nine out of every ten boys and girls of high school age have petting 
parties,’ and I really don’t believe it’s more than three out of four.” AH 
such data must be regarded as simply suggesting tendencies. 

Cf. Appendix on Method. 

Group compulsion is apparently a potent factor, particularly among 
the girls. Forty-seven per cent, of 241 junior and senior boys and 65 per 
cent, of 315 girls marked “true” the statement, “Most girls allow ‘petthig’ 
not because they enjoy it but because they are afraid they will be unpopular 
if they refuse.” Thirty-four per cent, of the boys and 24 per cent, of the 
girls marked it “false,” 17 and g f^r cent, respectively “uncertain,” and 2 
per cent, of each did not answer. Eighty-six per cent, of the 177 boys who 
had “taken part in ‘petting parties’” said that they did it for the sake of 
“having a good time,” and 8 per cent, because they were “afraid of being 
unpopular,” while 48 per cent, of the 159 girls said that they did it for the 
“good time” and 36 per cent, for fear of unpopularity. 

Such answers as these were given by the boys: “To be one of the 
gang,” and “Because the others did” ; while among the girls’ answers, these 
were characteristic : “They laugh at you if you don’t, and I see no harm as 
long as you don’t go too far,” “Forced to,” “Afraid of being sneered at if I 
don’t — ^but because of good time once,” “Hard to keep from it when there 
was insistence,” “Because the boy I go with wants to.” 

The remaining 6 per cent, of the boys and 16 per cent, of the girls dis- 
tributed their answers under “Curiosity,” “I cared for him (her)/’ etc. 



in "^petting parties’^ suggest the definite group connotation of 
the term to them : did not know it was going to be that kind 
of a party/’ “I did not know what it was going to be like ; I did 
not stay long/’ do not believe in them, but have gone to one 
or two,” “Just to see what they were like/’ 

Mothers of both working and business class, whether they 
lament the greater frankness between the sexes or welcome it as 
a healthy sign, agree that it exists and mention the dress and 
greater aggressiveness of girls today as factors in the change. 
Such comments as the following from the mothers of both 
groups are characteristic,: 

*‘Girls aren’t so modest nowadays ; they dress differently/’ ‘"It’s 
the girls’ clothing ; we can’t keep our boys decent when girls dress 
that way.” “Girls have more nerve nowadays — ^look at their 
clothes!” “Girls are far more aggressive today. They call the 
boys up to try to make dates with them as they never would 
have when I was a girl.” “Last summer six girls organized a party 
and invited six boys and they never got home until three in the 
morning. Girls are always calling my boys up trying to make 
dates with them.” “Girls are bolder than they used to be. It used 
to be that if a girl called up and asked a boy to take her some- 
where she meant something bad by it, but now they all do it.” 
“My son has been asked to a dance by three different girls and 
there is no living with him.” “When I was a girl, a girl who 
painted was a bad girl — ^but now look at the daughters of our 
best families!” 

The declining dominance of the home and early sophistica- 
tion of the young bring still another difficulty to Middletown 
parents in the increased awkwardness of the status of the child, 
particularly the boy, as he nears adulthood. Socially, children 
of both groups are entering earlier into paired associations with 
members of the other sex under a formalized social system that 
makes many of the demands for independence of action upon 
them that it does upon self-supporting adults. Sexually, their 
awareness of their maturity is augmented by the maturity of 
their social rituals and by multiplied channels of diffusion, such 

The rise of the telephone plays an important part in this shift since it 
affords a semi-private, partly depersonalized means of approach to a person 
of the other sex. Then, too, the diffusion downward into the conglomerate 
high school population of today of a social life conducted, as in the case of 
their elders, in large part by the females, has greatly facilitated the aggres- 
siveness of the girls : only five of the fourteen Christmas dances were male- 
conducted, the girls seeking out the boys for the other nine. 



as the movies and popular magazines. But meanwhile, eco- 
nomically they are obliged by the state to be largely dependent 
upon their parents until sixteen, the age at which they may 
leave school, and actually the rapidly spreading popular cus- 
tom of prolonged schooling tends to make them dependent from 
two to six years more. The economic tensions inherent in this 
situation are intensified by the fact that, as in the case of their 
parents, more of their lives than in any previous generation 
must surmount intermediate pecuniary hurdles before they 
can be lived. Expenses for lunches purchased in the high school 
cafeteria, for movies and athletic games, as well as for the 
elaborate social life — ^with its demands for club dues, fees for 
formal dances and banquets, taxis, and variety and expense of 
dress — ^mean that children of all classes carry money earlier and 
carry more of it than did their parents when they were young. 
Thirty-seven per cent, of the 348 high school boys and 29 per 
cent, of the 382 girls answering the question checked “spend- 
ing money’^ as a source of disagreement between them and their 

“One local youth sighs for the return of the good old days 
when one could sit on the davenport at home with one’s ‘best girl’ 
and be perfectly contented,” says a local paper. “You can’t have a 
date nowadays,” he says, “without making a big hole in a five- 
dollar bill.” 

And again, “The coal dealer and the gas men may fear the 
coming of summer — ^but florists aren’t much worried over the 
fact that spring flowers will soon be seen growing in every front 
yard. Tt don’t mean an3d:hing,’ says one local florist. ‘The days 
have gone by when a young man may pick a bouquet of flowers 
from his own yard and take them to his best girl. Nowadays she 
demands a dozen roses or a corsage bouquet in a box bearing the 
name of the best florist.’ ” 

“There are still some youths,” says another note, “who believe 
that a girl is overjoyed when they take her into a soda fountain 
after they have been to a moving picture show. That is what one 
calls ‘the height of being old-fashioned.’ Nowadays one has to 
have a six-cylindered seven-passenger sedan to take her joy- 
riding in, and one must patronize the most expensive shows and 
take her to the most exclusive restaurants to cap the evening ofl.” 

18 See Table XIII. 



If such statements represent journalese hyperbole, they never- 
theless reflect a powerful trend affecting the young of every 
economic level. A wide variety in the kinds of adjustment dif- 
ferent families are attempting to effect in regard to these new 
demands for money appears in the answers of 386 boys and 
454 giris, high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors, to a 
question on the source of their spending money : 3 per cent, of 
the boys and 1 1 per cent, of the girls receive all their spending 
money in the form of an allowance; 15 per cent, of the boys 
and 53 per cent, of the girls are dependent for all their spend- 
ing money upon asking their parents for it or upon gifts; 37 
per cent, of the boys and 9 per cent, of the girls earn all their 
spending money It is perhaps significant that, while over 
three-fourths of these Middletown boys are thus learning 
habits of independence as regards money matters by earning 
and managing at least a part of their money, over half of the 
girls are busily acquiring the habits of money dependence that 
characterize Middletown wives by being entirely dependent 
upon their parents for their spending money without even a 
regular allowance.^® At no point is parental influence more 
sharply challenged than by these junior-adults, so mature in 
their demands and wholly or partially dependent upon their 
parents economically but not easily submitting to their au- 

A natural reaction to these various encroachments upon 
parental dominance and shifts in the status of children is the 
vigorous reassertion of established standards. And in Middle- 
town the traditional view that the dependence of the child car- 
ries with it the right and duty of the parents to enforce '"disci- 
pline" and "obedience" still prevails. 

"Study the lives of our great men. Their mothers were true 
home-makers who neither spared their prayers nor the rod and 
spoiled the child," says a paper read before one of the federated 
women's clubs in 1924. "It is the men and women who have been 
taught obedience from the cradle, who have been taught self- 

In addition 9 per cent, of the boys and 5 per cent, of the girls both earn 
money and have an allowance; 31 per cent, of the boys and 17 per cent, of 
the girls supplement earnings in some other way than by an allowance; 5 
per cent, of the boys and 5 per cent, of the girls supplement allowances in 
some other way than by earnings. 

As one senior girl put it, *‘Some of us don’t want an allowance; you 
can get more without one.” 


control and to submit to authority and to do things because they 
are right who are successful and happy in this world/' 

A prominent banker and a prominent physician agreed in a 
dinner-table discussion that there must be once in every child^s 
life a brisk passage at arms that "Vill teach them where au- 
thority lies in the family. You have to teach them to respect 
parental authority. Once you've done this you can go ahead and 
get on the best possible relations with them." '"My little grand- 
child has been visiting me," said a teacher in a Sunday School 
class in a leading church, "and he's a very bad little boy; he's 
so full of pep and energy that he doesn't do what I want him 
to do at all." "I am going to bring my little girl up jus£ as 
strict as I can," said one perplexed working class mother ; "then 
if she does go bad I won’t feel that I haven't done my duty." 

And yet not only are parents finding it increasingly difficult 
to secure adherence to established group sanctions, but the sanc- 
tions themselves are changing; many parents are becoming 
puzzled and unsure as to what they would hold their children 
to if they could. As one anxious business class mother said : 

"You see other people being more lenient and you think perhaps 
that it is the best way, but you are afraid to do anything very 
different from what your mother did for fear you may leave out 
something essential or do something wrong. I would give anything 
to know what is wisest, but I don't know what to do." 

As a possible index of the conscious emphases of Middletown 
mothers in training their children as well as of the points at 
which this generation is departing from the ways of its parents, 
the mothers interviewed were asked to score a list of fifteen 
habits according to their emphases upon them in training their 
children, and each was asked to give additional ratings of the 
same list as her own home training led her to believe her mother 
would have rated it thirty years ago when she was a child.^^ 
To the mothers of the last generation, according to both groups, 

21 See Table XIV. The list consisted of fifteen habits observed _ to be 
stressed in greater or less degree in Middletown in the training of children: 
frankness; desire to make a name in the world concentration; social-mind- 
edness (defined as '‘a sense of personal responsibility for those less fortu- 
nate”) ; strict obedience; appreciation of art, music, and poetry; economy 
in money matters; loyalty to the church; knowledge of sex hygiene ; toler- 
ance (defined as ‘'respect for opinions opposed to one’s own”) ; curiosity; 
patriotism; good manners; independence (defined as “ability to think and 
act for oneself”) ; getting very good grades in school. The lists were given 



^^strict obedience’^ and “loyalty to the church” were first in Im- 
portance as things to be emphasized.^^ The working class 
mothers of the present generation still regard them as preemi- 
nent, but with closer competitors for first place. In the ratings 
of the group of business class mothers of the present genera- 
tion, however, “strict obedience” is equaled and “loyalty to the 
church” is surpassed by both “independence” and “frankness.” 
“Strict obedience does not accomplish anything at all,” said 
one business class mother, marking it an emphatic zero. And 
another commented : “I am afraid that the things I really have 
emphasized are obedience, loyalty to the church, and getting 
good grades in school ; those are the things easiest to dwell on 
and the things one naturally emphasizes through force of habit. 
But what I really believe in is the slower but surer sort of train- 
ing that stresses concentration, independence, and tolerance.” 

A more democratic system of relationships with frank ex- 
change of ideas is growing up In many homes : “My mother 
was a splendid mother in many ways, but I could not be that 
kind of mother now. I have to be a pal and listen to my chil- 
dren's Ideas,” said one of these mothers who marked obedience 
zero for herself and “A” for her mother. One worker^s wife 
commented, “Obedience may be all right for younger children, 
but, now, take my boy in high school, if we tried to jerk him up 
like we used to be he’d just leave home.” And another, “We are 
trying to make our boy feel that he is entitled to his own 
opinion; we treat him as one of us and listen to his ideas.” The 
value that the children apparently place upon this policy is indi- 
cated by the fact that “respecting children’s opinions” is rated 
by 369 high school boys and 415 high school girls second 
only to “spending time with children” as a quality desirable in 
a father; this trait was rated fourth and fifth in importance 
respectively by these boys and girls as a quality desirable in a 
mother.®® The different ratings for father and mother in this 

to the women and they first marked the habits which they themselves regard 
as most important, rating the three most important “A,” the five next most 
important any of third-rate importance and any which they re- 
garded as unnecessary or undesirable zero. They then set down in another 
column what they thought, in the light of their own home training, their 
mothers* ratings would have been. This procedure is, of course, precarious. 
It represents verbalizations only, but every effort was made to check up on 
a woman’s memories of her own training and to secure careful consideration. 

22 See Qis. XX and XXII regarding shifting religious emphases. 

23 See Table XV. 



regard may reflect the fact that, although the father is less im- 
mediately concerned with the daily details of child-rearing, it is 
he who puts the family^s “foot down’^ periodically. 

A shift in emphasis upon knowledge of sex hygiene appear- 
ing in the ratings of these mothers may be in part a response 
to fear of the consequences of the present freedom between the 
sexes. Mother after mother said in substance, “The only thing 
that can be done is to teach boys and girls about such things.' ' 
Only four of the sixty-seven working class wives who rated 
these items for both themselves and their mothers said that they 
do not believe in teaching sex hygiene to their children, while 
thirty-two of their mothers are reported not to have believed in 
it; of the thirty-seven wives of the business group reporting 
for themselves and for their mothers, there is not one who does 
not believe in such instruction, although twenty-two of their 
mothers were reported by them not to have believed in it. Some 
of the wives of the working class believe that instruction should 
be given by the schools but lack the courage to undertake it 
themselves.^^ The teaching of the mothers who do attempt to 
talk with their children apparently varies all the way from the 
old wives^ tales- of some of the workers’ wives to the practice 
of one business class mother who took her small son of four 
to see the birth of some puppies and gave full answers to all his 

This trend in the direction of more teaching of sex hygiene 
in the home appears more significant in the light of the fact that 
there is no other accepted means of giving the young sex 
knowledge or initiating them into the sanctions and prohibi- 
tions of the group regarding sex. No formal instruction in sex 
hygiene is given anywhere in the Middletown schools. “I am an 
old-fashioned mother,” said the dean of women at the high 
school, “and I don’t believe in suggesting those things to chil- 
dren. The more we put such things into their heads the more 
they will think of them.” The six leading Protestant ministers 

2^ This parental failure of nerve is illustrated in the following" comment by 
a working class woman in her middle thirties, the mother of a sixteen-year- 
old girl : “I believe children ought to be taught such things. I^m not much 
for talking about them. I’ve never talked to my daughter at all, though I 
suppose she knows more than I think she does. She’s the only one I’ve got 
and I just can’t bear to think of things like that in connection with her. 
I guess I wouldn’t even talk to her if she was going to be married — I just 
couldn’t I” 



of the city and the Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A. secretaries say" 
that no formal teaching in this matter is afforded by any of 
their organizations.^® That actual sex instruction by parents is 
still far from universal appears from the fact that, of 264 boys 
and 344 girls, high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors, 
answering the question, “From what source did you receive 
most of whatever information you have on sex matters?’’ 32 
per cent, of the boys and 68 per cent, of the girls named their 
parents as their chief source of information.^® 

Despite the difficulty of holding children to established sanc- 
tions and the shifting of the sanctions themselves, not all of the 
currents in the community are set in the direction of widening 
the gap between parents and children. It is the mother who has 
the chief responsibility in child-rearing, and many Middletown 
mothers, particularly among the business class, are devoting a 
part of their increasing leisure to their children.^^ Such com- 
ments as the following represent many of the business class 
wives interviewed: 

“I accommodate my entire life to my little girl. She takes three 
music lessons a week and I practice with her forty minutes a day. 

I help her with her school work and go to dancing school with 

“My mother never stepped inside the school building as far as I 
can remember, but now there are never ten days that go by with- 
out my either visiting the children’s school or getting in touch 
with their teacher. I have given up church work and club work 
since the children came. I always like to be here when they come 

^ 26 The only exceptions to this generalization are discussions of the de- 
sirability of “keeping clean” in Y.M.C.A. Bible classes, informal camp-fire 
talks touching on sex matters among other things at the Y.M.C.A. summer 
camp, a Y.W.C.A. club of girls who sometimes ask their leader questions 
touching sex, and a sporadic effort by the minister of the smallest of the 
above six leading churches to talk to some of the boys in his church if 
their fathers are willing. 

26 Forty-two per cent, of the boys and 22 per cent, of the girls stated that 
they had received most bf their information from boy or girl friends. 
Eleven per cent, of the boys and 0.6 per cent, of the girls named “Y.M.C.A.” 
or “Y.W.C.A.” workers. One per cent, of the boys and 2 per cent, of the 
girls answered “Sunday School teacher” and 4 per cent, of the boys and 
4 per cent.' of the girls “School teacher.” Other answers were scattered. 
Movies and the so-called “sex magazines” were not mentioned specifically by 
any of the children, but according to many parents, as noted elsewhere, 
these play an important part. 

27 Cf- Ch. XII on the decreased time spent by women of both groups on 



home from school so that I can keep in touch with their games 
and their friends. Any extra time goes into reading books on 
nutrition and character building.” 

‘^Every one asks us how we’ve been able to bring our children 
up so well. I certainly have a harder job than my mother did; 
everything today tends to weaken the parents’ influence. But we do 
it by spending time with our children. I’ve always been a pal with 
my daughter, and my husband spends a lot of time with the boy. 
We all go to basketball games together and to the State Fair in 
the summer.” 

‘'We used to belong to the Country Club but resigned from that 
when the children came, and bought a car instead. That is some- 
thing we can all enjoy together.” 

At the opposite pole from the most-leisured mothers of the 
business group are a considerable group of the working class 
wives for whom the pressure of outside work or of housework 
never done prevents the giving of much time and thought to the 
day-by-day lives of their children: 

‘T would like to play with the children more than I do. but I’m 
too tired to do it even when I have the time,” was one comment. ‘T 
just can’t get up any energy. My man is so tired when he comes 

28 The amount of time actually devoted to their children, even by mothers 
of the business class, should not be over-estimated. Clubs, bridge, golf, and 
other leisure-time outlets make heavy inroads upon women’s time. One 
woman spoke of having played eighteen holes of golf on three afternoons 
during the preceding week with a mother of three children. S^d piles 
and other devices are provided at the Country Club where the children of 
members may be parked. The small daughter of one member said with evi- 
dent bitterness, *T hate the Country Club because Mother is out there all 
the time.” More than one mother who spoke of devoting most of her time to 
her children considered herself exceptional. 

A very rough check of the time spent by mothers of the two groups with, 
their children is afforded by the following summaries of their estimates^ 
Of the forty business class mothers, none reported no time at all spent by 
her on a usual day with her children, two spend less than^ an hour a 
day, nineteen spend more than an hour a day but less than sixteen hours 
a week, nineteen spend sixteen or more hours a week. Of the eighty-five 
working class mothers answering this question, seven said they spend no 
time, thirteen less than one hour a day, twenty-six at least one hour a day 
and less than sixteen hours a week ; thirty-nine spend sixteen hours or more 
a week. Sunday time was added to time spent on week days and the total 
divided by seven to secure these daily averages. Meal times were not in- 
cluded in these totals. Answers of women of both groups on the amount of 
time their mothers spent with them would suggest a trend in the direction 
of more time spent with children today, but these data are too rough ta 
carry much weight. 


home from work that he jtist lies down and rests and never plays 
with the children,” 

Another woman replied blankly to question after question 
about her eight children and their future, “I ain't ever give it a 

Certain others, less hard-pressed, give to the rearing of their 
children scarcely less time and consideration than do the most 
conscientious of the business class mothers : 

One foreman’s wife, wrapped up in her only child of eight, 
spends over an hour practicing with him each day at the piano, 
goes with him twice a week to his music lessons, works in the 
garden with him, and visits school once a month. 

just can’t afford to grow old,” said another wife. have a 
boy of fifteen in high school and another of thirteen. I put on 
roUer skates with the boys and pass a football with them. In the 
evenings we play cards and on Sundays we go to ball games. My 
mother back East thinks it’s scandalous, but I tell her I don’t 
think Bxiything very bad can happen to boys when they’re there 
with their father and mother.” 

The role of the father in child-rearing is regarded by Middle- 
town as less important than that of the mother. ‘‘It is much 
more important for children to have a good mother than it is 
for them to have a good father,” says Dorothy Dix, “because 
the mother not only establishes their social position, but be- 
cause her influence is the prepotent one.” A minority group of 
the men shift virtually the whole job to their wives, and, in 
general, the business men seem to find little, if any, more time 
for their children than do the working men.^^ “My husband has 
to spend time in civic work that my father used to give to us 
children,” said one business class mother. But fathers of the 
business group seem somewhat more aware of the concern over 
parenthood being diffused to the city through civic clubs and 
other channels, and one meets less often among them than 
among the working class the attitude, “My husband never pays 
any attention to the children.” There is a busy, wistful uneasi- 

Of the forty business class fathers only three were reported by their 
wives as spending no time with their children and eleven less than an hour 
a day, including Sunday, and of the ninety-two working men for whom such 
data were secured, the totals were respectively nine and twenty. Again it 
should be noted, however, that such answers are highly fallible. 



ness about not being a better parent among many of the city’s 
leaders : 

“I’m a rotten dad/’ lamented one of these fathers. “If our 
children amount to anything it’s their mother who’ll get all the 
credit. I’m so busy I don’t see much of them and I don’t know 
how to chum up with them when I do.” 

Another remarked some time after a questionnaire had been 
given the high school children asking among other things for 
the time spent weekly by them in having a good time with 
their parents : 

“You know, I don’t know that I spend any time having a good 
time with my children, and it hit me all in a heap when they 
came home and repeated that question. And the worst of it is, I 
don’t know how to. I take my children to school in the car each 
morning; there is some time we could spend together, but I just 
spend it thinking about my own affairs and never make an effort 
to do anything with them./ 

The evenings and long Sunday afternoons when the whole 
family is together in the elbow-to-elbow contact of the family 
automobile are giving many fathers of both classes a chance to 
“be a dad.” Tinkering around the car and going to the weekly 
basket-ball games together offer other points of contact; one 
father has fitted up an old barn as a club room for his boys; 
another has made a stage for his little daughter where she 
carries on endless pantomimes with her dolls ; a third has fitted 
up one room as a study for his daughter of eight so that she 
can arrange her own books and paints on low desk and shelves 
in a place that is her own. It is significant that the 369 high 
school boys and 415 girls chose “spending time with his chil- 
dren” among a list of ten possible desirable qualities in a father 
far more often than any of the other nine, and rated the corre- 
sponding item as second only to “being a good cook and house- 
wife” among the qualities desirable in a mother.^ 

The attitude that child-rearing is something not to be taken 
for granted but to be studied appears in parents of both groups. 
One cannot talk with Middletown mothers without being con- 
tinually impressed by the eagerness of many to lay hold of every 
available resource for help in training their children : one busi- 

See Table XV. 


ness class mother took a course in the Montessori method in a 
near-by city before 'the birth of her daughter; another reads 
regularly the pamphlets of the Massachusetts Society for Men- 
tal Hygiene and such books as A System of Character Train- 
ing for Children; a few get informal help from the head of the 
Home Economics Department of the schools and from oc- 
casional state demonstrations on child care ; a handful get 
hold of government bulletins. Some mothers found help in a 
"'mothers’ training dass” conducted for a time by a minister’s 
wife, and a score of others are enthusiastic over a Mothers’ 
Sunday School Class in another church; a few look to the 
Mothers’ Council, but many of the supporters of these groups 
say that they get little concrete help from them.®^ Forty 
mothers, many of them from the working class, paid over forty 
dollars for an installment set of ten volumes on child-training 
entitled Foundation Stones of Success; with the purchase went 
membership in a mothers’ club where child-training programs 
were to have been studied, had not the club died after a meeting 
or two.®^ Some working class mothers receive advice in 
the physical care of their children from the Visiting Nurses’ 
Association and some through the schools, although the latter, 
like the medical profession, appear to be chiefly concerned with 
remedial rather than preventive work.^^ Most important of all 
new sources of information are the widely-read women’s mag- 

The State Division of Infant and Child Hygiene cooperating with the 
Children's Bureau of the Department of Labor conducted a conference and 
demonstration in a local church in 1923. Cf. Ch. XIV on the work of the 
Domestic Science Department in the schools and on the evening classes at- 
tended by mothers; most of this work is confined to cooking and sewing, 
A course on nutrition has recently been introduced into one of the schools. 

22 Cf. the account of the Mothers' Council in Ch. XIX. 

23 Cf. Ch. XVII on the number of books purchased by Middletown parents 
to help them in the rearing of their children. 

Nowhere is the isolation of many Middletown housewives more apparent 
than in such a case as this. They are eager to help their children and feel 
that a way out lies through books, but do not know where to go for advice 
in selecting them. One foreman's wife pointed to a set of books bought of 
an agent and said bitterly, “The agent came when I’d been putting up fruit 
all day and was tired and worried about the children. I finally said ‘Yes’ 
and now they’re not what I need. And the worst of it is that all that money’s 
gone into those books that might have gone into really good ones.” 

2^ Cf. Ch. XXV on the care of health in the community. It is indicative 
of the uneven diffusion of the best the community knows in such matters 
as child health that this instruction on pre-natal care, care of infants, etc., 
is not infrequently resented by the poorest mothers. 



azines.®* '‘There was only one weak magazine thirty-five years 
ago from which we got help in child-training/' according to one 
mother, "and it was nothing like the fine women’s magazines 
we have today,” Such "baby books” as Holt’s Care and Feed- 
ing of Infants are also supplanting the family "recipe book” of 

And yet a prevalent mood among Middletown parents is be- 
wilderment, a feeling that their difficulties outran their best 
efforts to cope with them : 

"Life was simpler for my mother,” said a thoughtful mother. 
"In those days one did not realize that there was so much to be 
known about the care of children. I realize that I ought to be 
half a dozen experts, but I am afraid of making mistakes and 
usually do not know where to go for advice.” 

One working class wife, deeply concerned over her oldest boy 
of eighteen, said, "We thought we’d have an easier time when 
we moved in from the farm three years ago, but now my husband 
is laid off and can’t get work anywhere. The boy is still work- 
ing, but we never know anything about him any more; he don’t 
pay any attention to Mom and Pop. He might be better if we had 
stayed on the farm, but I suppose he’d be in town all the time 
anyway. I helped him to buy Ins Ford by not taking board money 
for three months; we didn’t want him to get it, but he was paying 
out so much on renting cars to go out with parties, it seemed 
cheaper to let him buy it. Now he wants a Studebaker so he can 
go seventy-five miles an hour. I told him I’d take in washing if 
he’d go to our church college, but he wanted to go to work. We 
wanted him to be a missionary ; to run all over the country, that’s 
his mission now! We never were like this when we were young, 
and we don’t know what to do about him.” 

The following discussion among eighteen high school boys and 
girls at a young people’s meeting in a leading church on the gen- 
eral topic, "What’s Wrong With the Home?” reveals the parents’ 
perplexity as seen by the children : 

Boy. "Parents don’t know anything about their children and 
what they’re doing.” 

Girl. "They don’t want to know.” 

Girl. "We won’t let them know.” 

Boy. "Ours is a speedy world and they’re old.” 

Boy. "Parents ought to get together. Usually one is easy and 
one is hard. They don’t stand together.” 

Cf. Ch. XVII for distribution of these magazines. 



Boy. “Parents ought to have a third party to whom they could 
go for advice/" [Chorus of “Yes/"] 

Boy. “This is the first year Tve wanted to dance. Dad wanted 
me to go to only two this Christmas. [Triumphantly.] I m going 
to five and passing up four!"" 

One shrewd business man summarized the situation: These 
kids aren"t pulling the wool over their parents eyes as much as 
you may think. The parents are wise to a lot that goes on, but 
they just don’t know what to do, and try to turn their backs on 

Chapter XII 


The single household in Middletown today, as in 1890, is the 
unit for both the preparation and the eating of food. “Meal- 
time’’ serves a double function — ^nutrition and social inter- 
course. The day-by-day social life of the individual family as a 
group centers around meal-times and, to a considerably less ex- 
tent, the family automobile.^ The dining-room table is the 
family^s General Headquarters ; here activities on every sector 
come to focus : “Next Sunday’s picnic,” “The house needs 
painting — it looks shabby beside the Smiths’,” “But, Marian, I 
don’t like your going out three school nights in succession,” 
“Jim, don’t you want to go to prayer meeting with me to- 
night?” “Pretty punk report card, Ted; you’d better do better 
next month” — and so on, day after day. Meal-time as family 
reunion time was taken for granted a generation ago; under 
the decentralizing pull of a more highly diversified and organ- 
ized leisure — in which Hi-Y, basket-ball games, high school 
clubs, pedro and bridge clubs, civic clubs, and Men’s League 
dinners each drain off their appropriate members from the 
family group — ^there is arising a conscious effort to “save meal- 
times, at least, for the family.” As one mother expressed it at 
a meeting of the Mothers’ Council, “Even if we have only a 
little time at home together, we want to make the most of that 
little. In our family we always try to have Sunday breakfast and 
dinner together at least.” “I ate only seven meals at home all 
last week and three of those were on Sunday,” said one father. 

^ While the automobile is the less important of the two in this connection, 
it is making noticeable inroads upon the traditional prestige of the family's 
meal-times at certain points; it has done much to render obsolete the 
leisurely Sunday noon dinner of a generation ago at which extra leaves had 
to be put in the table for the company of relatives and friends who sat down 
to the great Sunday roast, and during half the year when “getting out in the 
car” is pleasant, it often curtails the evening meal to an informal “bite.” 



getting so a fellow has to make a date with his family to 
see them.” 

Morning, noon, and evening meal eaten within the home are 
still the rule. A brisk skirmish is on’ however, for possession 
of the noon meal : on the one hand, the diffusion of the own- 
ership of automobiles is facilitating the husband's coming home 
to lunch despite the growing size of the city and the increasing 
remoteness of homes from place of work, while on the other, 
high school cafeteria, a factory cafeteria in at least one large 
plant, and business men’s luncheon clubs are drawing many 
away from home. 

I>espite the fact that children in Middletown, as noted 
above, place ^'being a good cook and housekeeper” foremost 
among the qualities desirable in a mother, cooking occupies a 
less important place today than formerly among both groups, 
but specially among the business class. The preparation of 
food in the nineties was one of a woman’s chief glories. Lunch- 
eon and dinner clubs meeting in the homes were favorite so- 
cial events ; referring to one of these clubs at which each hostess 
in turn strove to surpass the other members with a new dish, the 
local press exclaimed, ‘^The ladies will resume the giving of 
those fine suppers which so pleased their husbands last win- 
ter.” Not only have social clubs built around cooking greatly 
declined, but the trend is away from the earlier attention to 
elaborate food. According to a local butcher : 

^‘The modem housewife has lost the art of cooking. She buys 
cuts of meat that are easily and quickly cooked, whereas in the 
nineties her mother bought big chunks of meat and cut them up 
and used them in various ways. Folks today want to eat in a 
hurry and get out in the car.” 

Something of what lies behind this change is reflected in 
the emphatic comment of a foreman's wife : 

'Tt keeps me hustling just to keep up with my husband and 
boys. I go to high school games and root with my boy. Sundays I 
go to baseball games with my husband. I don't like Sunday sports, 
but he does, and it's our one chance to enjoy things together. 
Yesterday my husband said, ‘Wouldn’t some pumpkin pie go 
good?' But I said, ‘Goodness, no, I have this custard because I 
can’t take the time to make fancy things and still keep up with 
my family.' ” 


The abbreviated time spent today in preparation of food is 
reflected in such things as the increased use of baker's bread 
and the corresponding decrease in home baking. Eighty-one 
(more than two-thirds) of the 1 19 working class wives who 
answered the question and thirty-four of the thirty-nine busi- 
ness class wives spend no time today baking bread and rolls 
as against only three of the mothers of the former and sixteen 
of the mothers of the latter. According to the head of the lead- 
ing Middletown bakery, not over 25 per cent, of the bread eaten 
in the city was commercially baked in 1890, while today 55 to 
70 per cent, of the total annual consumption, varying with the 
season, is baked by commercial bakers.^ 

“The people who lived in the better homes and kept help in 
1890 never thought of bu3ring bread imless to fill in when the 
home-baked bread ran short,” according to an old-time baker. 
“They regarded baker’s bread as poor-folksy; it was the working 
class who bought baker’s bread. It was in the factory districts that 
groceries first began about 1890 to keep baker’s bread for the 
accommodation of their customers.® Few rolls were baked com- 
mercially then and no cakes except for weddings or big parties. 
People ate as many of them as they do today, but they weren’t 
used to having them baked in a bakery.” ^ 

2 An interesting fact pointed out by this man is the cycle occurring year 
after year whereby, taking the October output of local commercial bakers 
as 55 to do per cent, of the total consumption of bread of all kinds, this 
percentage increases to about 70 per cent, during the busy fall months from 
October through January; from January to March the figure falls back, 
only to increase again to 70 per cent, from April through July, followed 

a decrease back to 55 or 60 per cent from July to October. 

3 The direction of diffusion of the habit of using bakers’ bread, from 
workers to business class, should be noted as a trend in the opposite direc- 
tion from most of those observed in Middletown. 

”^The baking industry has been one of the slowest to yield to the cen- 
tralizing, mechanizing trend of the industrial revolution; it ranked only 
eighteenth among the country’s industries in 1909, but it was eleventh in 
1914 and eighth in 1919* Even as late as 1890, only one or two Middletown 
bakers sold bread at wholesale to grocers. Most people preferred to buy 
directly from a local baker. Today the industry in Middletown exhibits all 
stages in the transition from isolated hand industry to c«itralized produc- 
tion; there are at least fourteen local bakers, producing all the way from a 
couple of hundred to 7,000 loaves daily apiece. 

In 1923 the national baking industry witnessed the patenting of an oven 
capable of producing 5,000 loaves an hour — thirty times the oirtput of the 
standard oven up to 1923. Already a big city bakery sixty miles from Mid- 
dletown using the quantity production metholds of modem industry is begin- 
ning to figure largely in the local bread supply. 



Increased tise of oommerdally canned goods has meant not 
only less time spent in home canning but a marked spread in 
the variety and healthfulness of the diet of medium- and low- 
jncome families throughout the bulk of the year when fresh 
garden products are expensive/ As one housewife expressed it, 
“You just spent your summer canning in 1890, but canned 
goods you buy today are so good that it isn't worth your while 
to do so much/' Well-to-do families do least canning, since they 
can afford to buy the better grades of canned goods, but toma- 
toes and fruits, particularly jellies, are still “put up" in quan- 
tities by housewives, notably those of the medium- and smaller- 
income groups. A prejudice lingers among these latter against 
feeding one's family out of cans. One of the federated women’s 
dubs recently gave over a program to a debate of the question, 
“Shall a Conscientious Housewife Use Canned Foods?" 

New mechanical inventions such as the development of re- 
frigeration and cold storage and of increasingly rapid trans- 
portation have also furthered sweeping changes in the kind of 
food eaten.® In 1890 the city had two distinct diets: “winter 
diet" and “summer diet." The “winter diet," as described by 
one housewife, was : 

“Steak, roasts, macaroni, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, tur- 
nips, cole slaw, fried apples, and stewed tomatoes, with Indian 
pudding, rice, cake, or pie for dessert. This was the winter reper- 
toire of the average family that was not wealthy, and we swapped 
about from one combination to another, using pickles and chow- 
chow to make the familiar starchy food relishing. We never 
thought of having fresh fruit or green vegetables and could not 
have got them if we had." ^ “In 1890 we had meat three times a 

5 According to the United States Census of Manufactures, 1921, the 
capital invested in the commercial canning of fruits and vegetables in the 
United States, expressed in thousands of dollars, increased from 15,316 in 
1889 to 223,692 in 3919, and the value of the product, again in thousands of 
dollars, from ^,862 to 402,243. 

« Mendel points out ^at not until 1893 did the then recently perfected 
ammonia process enable a sufficient quantity of food materials to be placed in 
cold storage to affect appreciably market conditions in the United States. 
Changes in the Food Supply (New Haven; Yale University Press, 1916), 
p. 12. 

^The limited variety of foods available helped to keep housewives at 
work for long hours in their kitchens: ^‘The lack of variety of vegetable 
foods in winter and of fresh meat in summer was without doubt the reason 
for the great abundance of preserves and pickles which every housewife 
deemed necessary and for the great number of kinds of pastry, cake, and 
similar dishes. In other words, there was a craving for variety and it was 



day/^ says a IMiddletown grocery proprietor. ^'Breakfast, pork 
chops or steak with fried potatoes, buckwheat cakes, and hot 
bread ; lunch, a hot roast and potatoes ; supper, same roast cold.’’ 

Following ‘‘winter diet” came “spring sickness.” “Nearly 
everybody used to be sick because of lack of green stuff to 
eat.” ® In the spring the papers carried daily advertisements of 
Sarsaparilla “to cure boils, sluggishness, thick blood, and other 
ailments resulting from heavy winter food.” A thumbed vol- 
ume, Chase’s Receipt Book, still treasured as a current practical 
tool by one prominent Middletown woman “because it is the 
book my mother brought up her large family on thirty years 
ago,” says of this “spring sickness” : 

*‘The matter is that the blood is thoroughly vitiated, and im- 
proving it must be a matter of time. Spring diet should do the 
work of medicine, largely. First in importance- are salads of all 

In those days the first beans or tomatoes began to be shipped 
in from the South in May. Then came the local gardens — 
and, according to a local seed man, “They used to he gardens 
in those days !” Then with the late October frosts green things 
disappeared and the families settled down once more to “winter 

Today, more and more Middletown housewives are buying 
fresh vegetables and fruits throughout the winter. Such sup- 
plies are shipped in regularly from large cities two or three 
hundred miles distant. These dietary changes have been facili- 
tated also by the development of the modem women’s maga- 
zines. Under the old rule-of-thumb, mother-to-daughter method 
of passing down the traditional domestic economy, when the 
same family recipe and doctor book — ^with “Gravy” in its index 
followed by “Gray hair, how to treat” — ^was commonly cher- 
ished by both mother and daughter, the home tended to resist 

satisfied by using in many different ways the comparatively small number 
of food materials which were most commonly obtainable” C. F. Lang- 
worthy, Food Customs and Diet in American Homes (United States Depart- 
ment of Agriculture, Office of Experiment Stations, Circular no, 1911). 

Apropos of the ubiquitous cole slaw of 1890, a news note in October, 1890, 
records the arrival of “a carload of excellent cabbage” to be “sold in large 
or small quantities.” Readers of Sherwood Anderson’s autobiographical A 
Story Teller's Story will recall the ruse adopted by the impecunious mother 
of the writer to secure the family’s winter supply of cabbages. 

s George W. Sloan, Fifty Years in Pharmacy (Indianapolis; Bobbs- 
Merrill), 1903. 



the intmsion of new habits. There were practically no hou^- 
keying magazines bringing knowledge of new skills and dif- 
ferent niethods. In March, 1923, however, the Ladies’ Home 
Jowrmd was taken in 355 of the 9,200 homes in Middletown, 
and 1,152 other persons bought it on the news-stands ; 366 sub- 
saibeii to Good Housekeeping^ and 202 copies were purchased 
on news-stands; 364 subscribed to McCall’s, and 1,280 bought 
it on news-stands, 1,709 bought the Womans^ Home Com- 
panion, 1,432 the Delineator, and 872 the Pictorial Review ^ the 
last three including both subscriptions and news-stand pur- 
chases. Through these periodicals, as well as through the daily 
press, billboards, and other channels, modern advertising 
pemnds away at the habits of the Middletown housewife. Whole 
industries mobilize to impress a new dietary habit upon her.^ 
Su|^ementing them are the new home economics courses in 
the schools ; the old three- and four-day “cooking schools” that 
came to town every couple of years have vanished, and in their 
stead 1,500 girls and women from the 9,200 homes of the city 
are being taught new habits in regard to diet and other aspects 
of home-making in day and evening classes each school term. 
But changes in the idea as to what constitutes a suitable meal 
ccttne slowly. So close is the tradition of the farm and the 
heavy-muscled tool-using of 1890 that, like the New Eng- 
lander who defends doughnuts for breakfast on the ground that 
lighter foods “digest away on you,” Middletown tends to retain 
the earlier habit of meat and potatoes and hot bread for its 
breakfast table. The habit of thought still persists widely that 
a is not “right” without meat. A leading butcher still ad- 
vertises “a tender cutlet for breakfast, a nice roast for dinner, 
and a good beefsteak for supper,” and “most” of his customers 
follow him to the extent of eating meat “about twice a day 
when they can afford it” 

®^‘The flour millers are trying with an 'eat more bread^ propaganda to 
raise per capita consumption from 200 to 220 pounds per year. . . . Milkmen 
are trying to bring up per capita milk consumption to one quart per capita 
per day — it is scarcely two-thirds that now. The butter makers want to bring 
up per capita butter consumption to Australia’s high level of ten pounds 
above our own. Cheese makers want to raise our cheese consumption by 
psrenty-two pounds per capita, to equal Switzerland’s. . . . The tremendous 
impetus given to^ fruits, vegetables,^ nuts, apples, raisins, and prunes by 
growers’ cooperative marketing associations is developing a dietary change,” 
Christine Frederick, “New Wealth” (^Annals of the American Academy of 
Political cmd Social Science, Vol. CXV, No. 294, September, 1924), p. ^ 



Just as the eating of food has also a social utility in family 
and club, so clothing plays more than the mere workaday role 
of protecting the body against inclement elements. Shop win- 
dows, newspaper advertisements, the throngs on the streets, 
sermons, the eagerly read, canny advice of Dorothy Dix in the 
daily paper, the clatter of talk in high school corridors, and 
indignant remarks of Middletown mothers all make this trans- 
parently patent. 

In this era of furnace-heated houses and enclosed automo- 
biles the utility of clothing in protecting the body is declining. 
^Tt is important that the skin be kept as near a uniform tem- 
perature as possible,’’ wrote Marion Harland. ‘'Nothing will do 
this so well as clothing made of pure wool worn next to the 
skin” and “covering the body from the extremities to the neck.” 
The diary of a leading merchant records for the twenty-second 
day of May, 1891, “Changed my flannels for cotton this morn- 
ing.” Today flannel underwear is almost as obsolete as the long 
black equestrian tights, high-necked, long-sleeved nightgowns 
for women, and the heavily-lined trousers of the working men 
of a generation ago. 

Were the sole use of clothing that of protection of the body, 
the urgent local discussion of the “morality” of women’s cloth- 
ing would probably never have arisen. Today, men’s clothing 
still covers the body decorously from chin to soles of the feet. 
Among women and girls, however, skirts have shortened from 
the ground to the knee and the lower limbs have been empha- 
sized by sheer silk stockings ; more of the arms and neck are 
habitually exposed ; while the increasing abandonment of petti- 
coats and corsets reveals more of the natural contours of the 
body. The Middletown woman of 1890 lived her waking life 
from adolescence to death in a tight brace worn under the 
clothing from the hips to “within a hand’s breadth of the arm- 

“Women will wear corsets,” says Marion Harland; “they al- 
ways have and they always will. We may as well consider this a 
settled fact. There are good and sufficient reasons why they are 
a necessity to the women who dress as civilized women have for 
the past two hundred years.” 

Talks Upon Practical Subjects (New York; The Warner Brothers 
G)mpany, 1895), p. 119. 


Over the indispensable corset was worn an abundance of long 
petticoats and other garments that leave many a person of the 
older generation gasping today before the outfit of a high 
school girl, often consisting only of brassiere, knickers, knee- 
length dress, low shoes, and silk stockings. Every step in this 
change has been greeted as a violation of morals and good taste. 
The editor of the leading Middletown paper in 1890 excoriated 
‘^the loose woolen shirts being worn by girls for coolness and 
comfort in the summer^' under the headline, Disgusting 
Fashion” : 

‘We had just as soon see a girl on the street in a night gown 
as in one of these female blouse rags. No girl possessing any 
self-respect or any regard for the opinion of respectable people 
will w^r one.” 

What would this editor and his generation, when no “good 
man” went to shows featuring girls dressed in tights, have said 
of a current revue staged in the high school auditorium by a 
group of recent high school graduates in which these locally 
prominent girls danced with backs bare to the waist and bare 
thighs? All of which reveals the fact that the moral function 
of clothing, while it has persisted without variation among the 
males, has undergone marked modification among the females. 
As one high school boy confidently remarked, “The most im- 
portant contribution of our generation is the one-piece bathing 
suit for women.” 

AH through life clothing apparently occupies a position of 
less importance among the males than among the females ; when 
the latter reach the age of twelve or thirteen, clothes suddenly 
leap into a position of dominating importance which lasts until 
marriage and then slowly tapers off thereafter as clothing is 
forced to compete with automobiles, home ownership, children, 
and college educations in the family budget. The greater atten- 
tion given by girls and women to dress, with increasing bright- 
ness of color and variety of costume, suggests the use of cloth- 
ing most important in the thought of the community. While the 
moral concern for covering one’s nakedness and the physical 
necessity for securing at least a modicum of warmth and pro- 
tection are still largely taken for granted, what most people in 
Middletown mean when they say they “need clothes” is neither 
of these but this third use of wearing apparel : to gain social 



recognition. Witness the frank statements of the advertising 
manager of a leading department store and of the head of a 
women’s ready-to-wear store before the local Ad. Qub of their 
thoroughly pragmatic advertising policy of ‘'appealing first to 
style, second to price, and last to quality.” Clothing, in other 
words, is addressed to impressing other persons and thus it 
still maintains one of its most primitive uses.^^ 

Even among the men, including working class men, it is 
apparently less common today than in the nineties to renounce 
any effort at appearing well-dressed by speaking scornfully of 
"dudes.” "They’re no longer content with plain, substantial, 
low-priced goods,” according to the leading men’s clothier, "but 
demand ‘nifty’ suits that look like those every one else buys 
and like they see in the movies.” Speaking of children’s cloth- 
ing, the same merchant said, "Poor mothers come in today with 
the attitude that ‘My boy is just as good as any other boy,’ and 
they often spend for a suit alone enough to buy a plainer 
suit, shoes, stockings, and cap.” As to the diffusion of more 
"dressy” clothing habits among women of the working class, 
according to a business man, "I used to be able to tell something 
about the background of a girl applying for a job as stenogra- 
pher by her clothes, but today I often have to wait till she 
speaks, shows a gold tooth, or otherwise gives me a second 

This spread of the habit of being, as one housewife remarked 
with an ominous shake of her head, "dressed up all the time,” 
is probably not tmrelated to such factors as increased clothing 
advertising ; the movies where the woman with a machinist 
husband sees a different kind of man — "a more dressy man, 
one more starchy,” to quote the evidence in a divorce case ; the 
decrease in individualism and increase In type-consciousness in 
the local business world ; the rise of men’s civic clubs with their 
noon luncheons, and of the women’s club movement, and the 

John Dewey speaks of the origin of clothing ‘‘in situations of unusual 
awe or prestigious display.” Experience and Nature (Chicago; Open Court, 
1925 h P* 3 ^ 5 - 

^2 See Table XXII. In October, 1923, the leading Middletown paper cap 
ried 55,277 lines of women’s wear advertising as over against 863 lines in 
the same month in 1890; 66,474 lines of department store “copy” as against 
22,586 ; 25,289 lines of men’s clothing “copy” as against 7,523 ; and 18, ^p6 
lines of shoe advertising as against 6,366. On some mornings the clothing 
advertisements total two-thirds of the htmdred or more columns of adver- 
tising in the local daily. 



marease in extra-home activities o£ a civic and social nature; 
the increased role o£ the wife as the social pace-setter for the 
family ; the diffusion of the habit of thought, in male parlance, 
that ^"YouVe got to sj^d money to earn money,'’ or in the 
words of Dorothy Dix, *'The world judges us largely by ap- 
pearance. If we wish to be successful we have got to look suc- 
cessfuL” The upshot of it all is that, to quote an editorial in 
the local press : ^‘People weren’t as particular in former days 
about what they wore Monday to Saturday,” but ^'The Sunday 
suit of clothes is one of the institutions that is vanishing in 
our generation, , . . Even the overall brigade is apt to wear 
tte same suit week-day evenings as on Sunday.” 

The early sophistication of the young includes the custom of 
wearing expensive clothing; as in other social rituals, entrance 
to h%h school appears to be the dividing line. The cotton 
stockings and high black shoes of 1890 are no longer tolerated.^^ 
The wife of a working man with a total family income of 
$1,638, said as a matter of course, ^‘No girl can wear cotton 
stockings to high school. Even in winter my children wear silk 
stockings with lisle or imitations underneath.” Similarly, the 
invariable dark flannel waists and wool skirts of the nineties, 
with a silk waist for ‘‘dress up,” have given way before an in- 
sistence upon a varied repertory in everything from sweaters 
to matching hose. As one business class mother said, “The 
dresses girls wear to school now used to be considered party 
dresses. My daughter would consider herself terribly abused if 
she had to wear the same dress to school two successive days.” 
Another business class mother said that she started her thir- 
teen-year-old daughter to high school wearing fine gingham 
dresses and lisle hose, thinking her very suitably dressed. 
“Mother, I am just an object of mercy!” wailed the child after 
a few days at school, and her mother, like many others, pro- 
vided silk dresses and silk stockings rather than have her 
marked as peculiar. 

The taboos of this Intermediate generation on plain dress are 

A Middletown woman of the working class who thirty-five years ago 
bought three pairs of cotton stockings for herself or for a daughter and 
made them last a whole year may today sacrifice durability and pay thirty- 
five cents, eighty cents, a dollar or more, for meretricious silk hose. Only 
1,570,000 pounds of artificial silk was produced in the United States in 1913. 
In 1923 the country produced 33,500»ooo pounds, though not all of this was 
for domestic consumption. 


tlie effective taboos of their elders : the males stay away. Girls 
fight with clothes in competition for a mate as truly as the 
Indians of the Northwest coast fight with the potlatch for social 
prestige. Since one of the chief criteria for eligibility for mem- 
bership in the exclusive girls’ clubs is the ability to attract 
boys, a plainly dressed girl feels the double force of this taboo 
by failing to receive a “bid” which she might otherwise get. 
“We have to have boys for the Christmas dances, so we take in 
the girls who can bring the boys,” explained a senior member 
of the most exclusive high school girls’ club. A girl who had 
just been asked in her junior year to join this club said, “IVe 
known these girls always, but I’ve never been asked to join 
before; it’s just clothes and money that make the difference. 
Mother has let me spend more money on clothes this last year.” 
A fifteen-year-old son, wise in the ways of his world, protested 
to his mother because his sister of fourteen in the eighth grade 
wore lisle stockings to school: “Well, if you don’t let her 
wear silk ones next term when she goes to high school,” was 
his final retort, “none of the boys will like her or have any- 
thing to do with her.” “I never thought I would dress my 
daughter this way, but it’s a concession I had to make for her 
happiness,” is a remark heard over and over again; in many 
cases “happiness” is frankly accepted as meaning popularity. 
Summer and winter the contest keeps up. “I want to get my 
daughter of fifteen off to a summer camp,” insisted one harried 
mother. “I dread summer particularly because so many young- 
sters spend all their time worrying about the proper way to 

Daughters of families of the working class do what they 
can to keep up with the procession, and if they fall too far be- 
hind, frequently leave school. A working class mother of five 
children, with a family income of $1,363, complains that her 
oldest daughters of eleven and twelve are “so stuck up I can’t 
sew for them any more,” and despite poor health, she has tried 
to get any kind of work outside her home, “so as to hire their 
sewing done.” In discussing the question of their children’s 
leaving school, many workers’ wives said : 

“She stopped because she was too proud to go to school unless 
she could have clothes like the others” ; or ^TMost of my time goes 
into sewing for my daughter. She’s sixteen and I do want her to 



keep on until she graduates from high school and she wants to 
too, but she won’t go unless she has what she considers proper 

Numerous dances and elaborate commencement activities, 
over and above the everyday social contacts at high school, ex- 
ert further pressure for expense in dress. A working man and 
his wife, both of whom work in order to finance the education 
of their children, spent $150 in 1923 and again in 1924 to outfit 
their two sons for their respective high school commencements. 
^*It takes two suits and many accessories to be properly dressed 
for the different occasions,” the father explained. Just because 
they are somewhat declasse socially, the compulsion to dress as 
the crowd does frequently rests as a doubly compelling necessity 
upon children of this class. 

Only a minority of the junior and senior boys attending the 
big dances wear Tuxedos, but the obligatory nature of special 
evening dress for the girls is much more marked. ^‘My daugh- 
ter will have four evening dresses this winter,” said one mother 
of the business group, ‘'two left over which were new last year, 
and two new ones.” For commencement a girl “needs three or 
four new dresses.” In addition to these, evening dresses are re- 
quired for the ten to fifteen Christmas fraternity, sorority, and 
other dances to which a popular girl goes. One girl in moderate- 
circumstances had “three evening dresses and a couple of after- 
noon dresses,” while “the most popular girl in the class has 
half-a-dozen evening dresses.” 

All of which helps to explain the observed trend in the prep- 
aration of clothing in Middletown. The providing of clothing 
for individual members of the family is traditionally an ac- 
tivity of the home, but since the nineties it has tended to be less 
a hand-skill activity of the wife in the home and more a part 

Cf. discussion of reasons for leaving- school in Ch. XIII. 

^®The importance of the right dress in this battle of clothes was naively- 
described by a recent Middletown high school graduate who had appeared 
at one of -the Christmas dances in a $90 “rust-colored gown.” “I was so 
pleased that nobody spoke of how nice it looked. You know if your mother 
makes a dress at home people always come up to you and say, How ni-ice 
you look ! Isn't it pretty !' and you know they’re condescending. I was sorry 
though that my dress wasn't described in the paper, for you always like that. 
But it isn’t the best dresses that are usually described.” 

Such descriptions as the following appear in the Middletown paper month 
after month after every high school dance: “Many fashionable dresses were 


of the husband's money-earning. One of the housewives inter- 
viewed lived in 1890 on a farm just south of town, where wool 
was clipped from sheep and practically all the family clothing 
spun by the women of the family. The common practice a gen- 
eration ago, however, was to buy “goods” and make the gar- 
ments at home. As late as 1910 there was practically no adver- 
tising of w^omen’s dresses in the local newspapers, and goods 
by the yard was prominently featured. Today the demand for 
piece goods is, according to the head of the piece goods de- 
partment of Middletown's largest department store, “only a 
fraction of that in 1890.” This store conducted a sale in 1924 
at which two bolts of the featured material were sold, “but in 
1890 we’d have sold ten bolts the first day.” 

Twenty-five of the 1 12 wives of working men for whom data 
were secured and twenty of the thirty-nine wives of the busi- 
ness class, as over against estimates of four out of sixty-six 
and eleven out of thirty-five respectively for their mothers, 
spend not over two hours a week on all sewing and mending for 
themselves, their husbands, and their children; while seventy- 
two (nearly two-thirds) of the working class women and 
twenty-nine (nearly three-fourths) of the business class women 
today spend not over six hours. Of this sewing that continues 
to be done in the home, the greater part is concentrated today 
on the clothing of the female members of the family and of the 
small children. Ninety-two (four out of five) of the 112 work- 
ing class wives do no sewing other than current mending for 
their husbands, as against thirty-eight (one in three) of their 
mothers for whom estimates were made by them ; while thirty- 
five (nine in ten) of this group of thirty-nine business class 
wives do no sewing for their husbands today, as against twenty- 
nine (three in four) of their mothers. According to the leading 
men’s and boys’ outfitters, virtually none of the boys’ winter 

worn by the guests, among them being a green crepe built over gold satin, 

which was worn by Miss . The blouse was made basque effect and 

trimmed with gold lace. A gold headband, gold slippers, and gold hose were 

worn with this dress. Miss was lovely in a smart frock of flowered 

pussy-willow taffeta made over white crepe de chine. It was fashioned tunic 
effect and caught with turquoise blue ribbons. She wore white hose and 
black satin slippers and a blue headband. Another attractive gown was^ that 

worn by Miss which was of green brocaded chiffon velvet, fashioned 

with flower trimmings. She wore black satin slippers and matching hose. 
Miss — - was stunning in a gown of dark blue chenille, fashioned with dark 
brown fur trimmings ; she wore gold hose and gold slippers.” 



suits worn in Middletown today is home-made, whereas he es- 
timated that about half of them were made in the home in 1890. 

It is characteristic of the customary lags and friction of insti- 
tutional life in a period of change like the present that women, 
thus forced into the market to buy and urged on by a heavily 
increased advertising appeal, must as yet perform this task 
dependent almost entirely upon the counsel of the selling agent, 
whose primary concern is to capture the market. In the absence 
of the knowledge requisite for buying on the basis of quality, 
the Middletown housewife must in the main, as noted above, 
dq)end upon ^'looks” and '"price/’ The following frank state- 
ment by a local women's ready-to-wear dealer in the course of a 
discussion at the Ad. Club reveals the helplessness of the buyer 
who has to depend upon such criteria : 

The question was raised as to women's liking higher-priced gar- 
nets and buying by price, provided a garment has style. One 
dealer said, "You men can't blame us: of two garments of the 
same quality the women will buy the more expensive ; they don't 
know, but think it must be better. You wouldn't have us lose that 
sale to her, would you? She mightn't buy at the lower price be- 
cause her friend may have paid $70 for her coat and she is sus- 
picious of a $40 coat. Of course, we have to put the price where 
shell buy under those circumstances.” 

This reflects the problem of the women with moderate money 
leeway ; the very poorest group are hammered at directly on a 
low-price basis by one large store specializing in this trade.^® 

To the student of cultural change the battle royal going on at 
present about this institution of clothing in Middletown raises 
interesting questions. Men depend less than women upon this 
device of dress to establish them among the group; will the 
present feverish preoccupation of the younger women with this 
activity of personal ornamentation diminish as their educa- 

It is noteworthy that the home economics work in the schools still con- 
centrates largely upon sewing rather than upon buying. Cf. the conclusion of 
the elaborate clothing survey conducted by the Junior and Senior Home 
Economics Curriculum Revision Committee of the Denver Public Schools 
m 1924: “This shows very clearly that the major problem in this field 
is one of clothing selection, as the garments which are bought ready-made 
in almost every instance greatly outnumber those made in the home.” The 
Denver situation probably does not differ greatly from that in Middletown. 

Cf. Henry Harap’s Education for Consumption (New York; Macmillan, 
1924) for a discussion of the infinite variety of substitute materials that 
the housewife buys blindly under such blanket titles as "all wool” and 


tion becomes more realistic, their lives more active, and their 
interests less confined to current household drudgeries ignored 
by men? As the woman becomes less the passive recipient of 
the man’s advances in mating, will her present use of dress ap- 
peal diminish? The physical house and yard in which Middle- 
town lives have yielded somewhat to the automobile as the 
outward emblem of conspicuous membership in this competi- 
tive society; will the automobile, the new religion of higher 
education, and other new means to fuller living cut down the 
money spent on clothing — ^as some shoe and men’s clothing 
dealers complain the automobile is already doing in Middle- 
town? What emotional outlet in these days of quickly assembled 
home sewing is compensating Middletown’s women for the 
pride in needle craftsmanship, in the neat seam, overcast and 
bound, dear to the housewife of a generation ago? What does 
the trend towards greater simplicity of line foreshadow? There 
are fewer ruffles and tucks, plainer flounces, straight instead of 
gored skirts, no fitted bodices and sleeves — ^and in their place 
are straight-line one-piece dresses ‘^as easy to make as a doll’s 
dress/’ Will this tend to reinstate sewing in the home as ad- 
vertising of new wants tightens the competition for the family 
income? Already the newer freedom and aggressiveness of 
women is insisting upon more comfort, looser clothing, and 
greater freedom of limb ; in a neighboring small city there 
was a lawsuit during 1925 over the right of a school-girl to 
wear knickers instead of a skirt to school. ^‘Where,” the editor 
of the 1890 Middletown News might ask, ‘"will this freedom 

At no point can one approach the home life of Middletown 
without becoming aware of the shift taking place in the tradi- 
tional activities of male and female. This is especially marked 
in the complex of activities known as “housework,” which have 
always been almost exclusively performed by the wife, with 
more or less help from her daughters. In the growing number 
of working class families in which the wife helps to earn the 
family living, the husband is beginning. to share directly in 

i’’ The substantial Middletown housewife of today does her morning- house- 
work in a light, loose-fitting, short-sleeved wash dress; in 1890, even in 
summer, she wore a shirtwaist with a high collar and long sleeves, and a 
wool skirt over a flannel petticoat, with a broken whalebone in her second- 
best corset gouging her somewhere down underneath all these clothes. 



liotisework. Even in families of the business class the manual 
activities of the wife in making a home are being more and 
more replaced by goods and services produced or performed by 
other agencies in return for a money price, thus throwing ever 
grea^r emphasis upon the money-getting activities of the hus- 
band/This is simply another instance of the shuffling about of 
‘‘men’s ways” and '‘women’s ways” observ^able among all peo- 
ples, for “it is partly a matter of accident as to how culture is 
adjusted to the two parts of the group.” 

As noted earlier, the rh}i:hm of the day’s activities varies 
according to whether a family is of the working or business 
class, most of the former starting the day at six or earlier and 
the latter somewhat later. Of the group of 112 working class 
wives who estimated the amount of time they spend on house- 
work “on an average week-day when there is ‘nothing ex- 
tra,’ ” eight spend less than four hours a day, seventy-seven 
(more than two-thirds) four or more but less than seven hours, 
and twenty-seven (less than a fourth) seven or more. Of the 
forty wives of the business class making a similar estimate, 
nine spend less than four hours a day, twenty-two (more than 
half) four or more but less than seven hours, and nine seven 
or more. Only one of the working class wives interviewed does 
no housework in the afternoon, eight do less than one hour, and 
forty-eight less than two hours, while twelve (nearly a third) 
of the wives of the business class interviewed do no housework 
in the afternoon, fifteen less than one hour, and thirty less than 
two hours. 

All housewives desire to reduce their hours spent in house- 
work; starting from this general attitude, at least five factors 
may be observed as tending singly or in varying combinations 
to determine a given wife’s daily routine: the amount of the 
family income, servants or available women kinsfolk in the 
home, the number of her children, age of her children, and her 
morale, i.e., whether or not she is discouraged with her out- 
look. The upshot of the Interaction of these factors is three 
main types of housewives : the few to whom housework is a 

Wissler, op. cti., p. 95. 

These estimates are, of course, only roughly accurate. An effort was 
made to secure the greatest possible care, by beginning at the rising hour 
and. setting down what the housewife did in different chunks of time 
throughout the day.^ Housework was defined as routine cleaning, preparing 
of food, etc., exclusive of “extra*’ cleaning or baking or laundry work. 


rnlnor concern engaging but an incidental part of each day; 
the large group who by careful management fit everything 
somehow into the morning and an afternoon hour or two and 
contrive to keep many afternoons and evenings relatively free 
for children, social life, and civic activities; and finally the 
group, as large as or larger than the second, for whom each day 
is a nip-and-tuck race to accomplish the absolute essentials be- 
tween morning and bedtime, with occasional afternoons or eve- 
nings free only by planning in advance. 

Dorothy Dix catches the traditional situation in her remark, 
‘‘Marriage brings a woman a life sentence of hard labor in her 
home. Her work is the most monotonous in the world and she 
has no escape from it.” Many working class housewives, strug- 
gling to commute this sentence for their daughters if not for 
themselves, voiced in some form the wish of one mother, ‘T’ve 
always wanted my girls to do something other than housework ; 
I don’t want them to be house drudges like me!” And both 
groups are being borne along on the wave of material changes 
toward a somewhat lighter sentence to household servitude. Of 
the ninety-one working class wives who gave data on the 
amount of time their mothers spent on housework as compared 
with themselves, sixty-six (nearly three-fourths) said that 
their mothers spent more time, ten approximately the same, and 
fifteen less time. Of the thirty-seven wives of the business 
group interviewed who gave similar data, seventeen said that 
their mothers spent more time, eight about the same, and twelve 
less time.^^ 

The fact that the difference between the women of this 
business group and their mothers is less marked than that be- 
tween the working class women and their mothers is traceable 
in part to the decrease in the amount of paid help in the homes 
of the business class. It is apparently about half as frequent 
for Middletown housewives to hire full-time servant girls to do 
their housework today as in 1890. The thirty-nine wives of the 
business group answering on this point reported almost pre- 
cisely half as many full-time servants as their mothers in 1890, 
and this ratio is supported by Federal Census figures ; thir- 

20 The lower percentage of farmers’ wives among the mothers of the 
business class should be borne in mind. Cf. Ch. V, N. 8. 

21 According to the Federal Census, the number of families in the State 
to each ‘‘servant” increased from 13.5 in 1890 'to 30.5 in 1920. (Middletown 



teen of the thirty-nine have full-time servants, only two of them 
more than one. But if the women of the business class have 
fewer servants than their mothers, they are still markedly more 
served than the working class. One hundred and twelve out of 
1 18 working class women had no paid help at all during the 
year preceding the interview, while only four of the thirty-nine 
women of the business group interviewed had had no help ; one 
of the former group and twenty-five of the latter group had the 
equivalent of one or more days a week. Both groups of house- 
wives have been affected by the reduction in the number of ‘'old 
maid’’ sisters and daughters performing the same duties as do- 
mestic servants but without receiving a fixed compensation. 
Prominent among the factors involved in this diminution of 
full-time servants are the increased opportunities for women 
to get a living in other kinds of work; the greater cost of a 
“hired girl,” ten to fifteen dollars a week as against three dollars 
in 1890; and increased attention to child-rearing, making 
mothers more careful about the kind of servants they employ. 
“Every one has the same problem today,” said one thoughtful 
mother. “It is easy to get good girls by the hour but very diffi- 
cult to get any one good to stay all the time. Then, too, the best 
type of girl, with whom I feel safe to leave the children, wants 
to eat with the family.” The result is a fortification of the tend- 
ency to spend time on the children and transfer other things to 

figures for 1890 are not available, but in 1920 there were 25.5 families for 
each “servant.”) Likewise the number of persons to each “servant” was, 
for the United States, 43,0 in 1890 and 83.2 in 1920; for the State 63.6 in 
1890 and 121.2 in 1920; for Middletown in 1920 it was 97.9. 

22 Cf. the discussion of women’s work in Ch. V. Throughout the United 
States, 31.1 per cent, of all women ten years of age and older gainfully 
employed in i8go were “servants” as over against 11.8 in 1920. 

A study of servant girl labor in eight cities in the state is reported in the 
Fifth Biennial Report of the [State] Department of Statistics: 1SQ3-4, 
pp. 173 ff. Two cities of about the size of Middletown and situated in the 
same general section of the state probably reflect Middletown conditions 
fairly accurately. Two servant girls were selected for each 1,000 of popu- 
lation in each city. It is not related how this sample of seventy-six servants 
from these two cities was chosen. Seventy of the seventy-six, however, 
were white ; of the seventy for whom ages were secured, twenty-nine were 
twenty or younger, forty-seven were twenty-five or younger, fifty were 
thirty or younger, sixty-one were thirty-five or younger, and only nine over 
thirty-five, including but two over fifty. In other words, these are precisely 
the age groups from which women in industry in Middletown today are most 
heavily recruited. When times are bad in Middletown a want ad. in the 
paper brings a long list of applicants for work as servants, but when times 
are good replies are scarce. 



service agencies outside the home. A common substitute for a 
full-time servant today is the woman who ‘‘comes in’" one or 
two days a week. A single day’s labor of this sort today costs 
approximately what the housewife’s mother paid for a week’s 

Smaller houses, easier to “keep up,” labor-saving devices,^® 
canned goods, baker’s bread, less heavy meals, and ready-made 
clothing are among the places where the lack of servants is 
being compensated for and time saved today. Working class 
housewives repeatedly speak, also, of the use of running water, 
the shift from wood to coal fires, and the use of linoleum on 
floors as time-savers. Wives of the business class stress cer- 
tain non-material changes as well. “I am not as particular as 
my mother,” said many of these housewives, or, “I sometimes 
leave my supper dishes until morning, which my mother would 
never have thought of doing. She used to do a much more elab- 
orate fall and spring cleaning, which lasted a week or two.^^ I 
consider time for reading and clubs and my children more 
important than such careful housework and I just don’t do it.” 
These women, on the other hand, mention numerous factors 
making their work harder than their mothers’. “The constant 
soot and cinders in this soft-coal city and the hard, alkaline 
water make up for all you save by new conveniences.” A num- 
ber feel that while the actual physical labor of housework is 
less and one is less particular about many details, rising stand- 
ards in other respects use up the saved time. “People are more 
particular about diet today. They care more about having things 
nicely served and dressing for dinner. So many things our 
mothers didn’t know about we feel that we ought to do for 
our children.” "" 

Most important among these various factors affecting 

23 At least two of the business class wives interviewed said, in comparing 
the time they spend at housework with their mothers, ^‘My labor-saving 
devices just about offset my lack of a maid.” 

2<«' The diary of a leading merchant records in October, 1887 : ''Wed. 19th, 
Bessie commenced cleaning house yesterday morning. . . . Fri. 2Tst. Still 
cleaning house. . . . Sat. 22nd. Still cleaning house; done with upper part 
of house (except our room), parlors and lower hall. . . . Mon. 24th. House 
cleaning still going on; our room in the mess today. . . . Tues. 25th. House 
cleaning finished last night.” The disappearance of carpets and heavy 
draperies combine with the custom of "keeping the house up” all the time 
to make such an orgy unnecessary today. 

25 Cf. Benjamin R. Andrews, Economics of the Household (New York; 
Macmillan, 1923), pp. S4-5» 4o8- 



women’s work is the increased use of labor-saving devices. 
Just as the advent of the Owens machine in one of Middle- 
town's largest plants has unseated a glass-blowing process 
that had come down largely unchanged from the days of the 
early Egyptians, so in the homes of Middletown certain primi- 
tive hand skills have been shifted overnight to modern ma- 
chines. The oil lamp, the gas flare, the broom, the pump, the 
water bucket, the washboard, the flatiron, the cook stove, all 
only slightly modified forms of some of man's most primitive 
tools, dominated Middletown housework in the nineties. In 
1924, as noted above, all but i per cent, of Middletown's houses 
were wired for electricity.^® Between March, 1920, and Febru- 
ary, 1924, there was an average increase of 25 per cent, in the 
K.W.H. of current used by each local family. How this addi- 
tional current is being used may be inferred from the follow- 
ing record of sales of electrical appliances by five local electrical 
shops, a prominent drug store, and the local electric power 
company for the only items it sells, irons and toasters, over 
the six-month period from May first to October thirty-first, 
1923: curlers sold, 1,173; irons, 1,114; vacuum cleaners, 709; 
toasters, 463; washing machines, 371; heaters, 114; heating 
pads, 18; electric refrigerators, ii; electric ranges, 3; electric 
ironers, The manager of the local electric power company 
estimates that nearly 90 per cent, of Middletown homes have 
electric irons. 

It is in part by compelling advertising couched in terms of 
certain of women's greatest values that use of these material 
tools is being so widely diffused : 

^‘Isn't Bobby more important than his clothes?" demands an 
advertisement of the ‘Tower Laundries" in a Middletown paper. 

26 The nineties witnessed the development of electric fans, heaters, and 
toasters, and the next decade the electric clothes washer and vacuum cleaner. 
As late as 1914, however, only a million dollars’ worth of washing machines 
and about a million and a third dollars’ worth of vacuum cleaners were 
sold in the United States. By igi6 washing machine sales were $7,c»oo,ooo ; 
1919, $50,000,000; 1920, $85,000,000; and 1923, $82,000,000. In 1923, $50,000,- 
000 of vacuum cleaners were sold. 

2J These figures do not pretend to be complete for the entire city, as they 
omit, e.g., the leading department store, which includes among its electrical 
lines the popular Hoover vacuum sweeper; they probably indicate roughly, 
however, the distribution of the various appliances. The count omits elec- 
trically driven sewing machines, percolators, possibly one or two dish 
washers, and electric cookers, of which last there are reported to be ap- 
proximately 200 of one locally manufactured brand alone in use in the city. 



The advertisement of an electrical company reads, "‘This is the 
test of a successful mother — she puts first things first. She does 
not give to sweeping the time that belongs to her children. . . . 
Men are judged successful according to their power to delegate 
work. Similarly the wise woman delegates to electricity all that 
electricity can do. She cannot delegate the one task most im- 
portant. Human lives are in her keeping; their future is molded 
by her hands and heart."" 

Another laundry advertisement beckons : “Time for sale ! Will 
you buy? Where can you buy back a single yesterday? Nowhere, 
of course. Yet, right in your city, you can purchase tomorrows. 
Time for youth and beauty ! Time for club work, for church and 
community activities. Time for books and plays and concerts. 
Time for home and children.^' 

Telephones came to Middletown in the early eighties, and 
by 1890 there were only seventy-one subscribers. So slowly 
did their use spread, that as late as 1900 the local press finds it 
necessary to warn the public that, when using the telephone, 
they “should not ask for a name but refer to the number list.’" 
“It was not until about the time of the Spanish War,” accord- 
ing to a woman of the business class, “that "phones became 
common enough so that you thought of feeling apologetic at 
not having one,"’ In April, 1924, 4,348 Middletown homes had 
a telephone, leaving about 5,000 without this tool.^® All forty of 
the business class families interviewed had telephones, while 
only 55 per cent, of the 122 workers" families for whom this 
point was checked had "phones.^® Around the telephone have 
grown up such time-savers for the housewife as the general 
delivery system for everything from groceries to a spool of 

The weekly washing and ironing of family clothing tends to 
make markedly different inroads upon the time of housewives 

28 The large number of families without 'phones is due in part to lack 
of plant facilities in certain newer sections of the city. The Commercial 
Department of the Bell Telephone Company anticipates connecting '*at least 
2,000 telephones within the next five years." 

29 This differential diffusion is important in view of the different emphasis 
upon vicinage in the social habits of the two groups noted in Ch. XIX. 

The Commercial Department of the Bell Telephone Company classifies 
Fe houses and lots in Middletown into four groups: Class A (most ex- 
pensive) 936; B, 1,822; C, 3,910; D (cheapest), 2,491; and these are 
rated as telephone prospects as follows: (Class A was reduced somewhat 
md the difference redistributed between B and C, on the advice of local 



of the working class and of the business class, with somewhat 
less marked shifts between the generations : 

No. of Working No. of Business 

Class Families Class Families 

ig24 i8go 1924 1890 

Total number of families 120 94 4Q 40 

Spend no time on washing or ironing o 5 24 20 

Spend some time but less than two 

hours weekly 2 i 0 i 

Spend two to four hours weekly ... 24 3 6 4 

Spend five to eight hours weekly... 65 28 8 6 

Spend nine or more hours weekly. . . 29 57 2 9 

Commercial laundries play a larger role today than in the 
nineties. Practically all family laundry in Middletown was 
done then either in the home or “taken out” by a “wash- 
woman/* and, according to the proprietor of a local laundry, 
local commercial laundries did almost exclusively hotel and 
boarding-house work and men’s bundle work, i.e., “boiled” 
shirts, collars and cuffs, underwear, and handkerchiefs; about 
the only women’s clothing done by them was some shirtwaists.®^ 
The advent of individually owned electric washing machines 
and electric irons has, however, slowed up the trend of laundry 
work — following baking, canning, sewing, and other items of 
household activity — out of the home to large-scale commer- 
cial agencies ; Middletown laundries report some loss of trade.®^ 

The rapid and uncontrolled spread of such new devices as 
labor-saving machinery under a system of free competition 
makes the housekeeping of Middletown present a crazy-quilt 

real estate experts, in the revised distribution according to valuation given 
above, but the original distribution is retained here). 

(A) Prospects for single party 'phones. 

(B) Ten per cent, of these are prospects for single-party 'phones and 90 
per cent, two-party. 

(C) Two-thirds of these are telephone prospects, 10 to 15 per cent, one- 
party, 25 to 30 per cent, two-party, and the remaining four-party. 

(D) Sixteen and two-thirds per cent, of these are prospects for 'phones; 
of these 20 per cent, are prospects for two-party 'phones and the balance 
for four-party 'phones. “Probably about 7 per cent, of the total class ‘D' 
families now have service." (Letter of October 20, 1924.) 

3 ® Local laundries today offer six types of service, of which “rough dry,” 
introduced about 1900 and consisting in washing everything, ironing flat 
pieces, and starching those requiring it, is most popular for family work, 
while next most popular comes “wet wash,” catering to poorer families and 
consisting merely in washing. 

*^This is an example of the way in which a useful new invention vig- 



appearance. A single home may be operated in the twentieth 
century when it comes to ownership of automobile and vacuum 
cleaner, while its lack of a bathtub may throw it back into 
another era and its lack of sewer connection and custom of 
pumping drinking-water from a well in the same back yard 
with the family ‘"privy’’ put it on a par with life in the Middle 
Ages. Side by side in the same block one observes families 
using in one case a broom, in another a carpet sweeper, and in 
a third a vacuum cleaner for an identical use, or such widely 
varying methods of getting clothes clean as using a scrub board, 
a hand washing machine, an electric machine, having a woman 
come to the house to wash, sending the clothes out to a woman, 
or sending them to a laundry for any one of six kinds of laun- 
dry service. Even as late as 1890, when housework was still 
a craft passed down from mother to daughter — ^what Bentham 
scornfully called “ancestor wisdom” — the Middletown house- 
wife moved in a narrower world of “either-or.” “There is a 
right way and a wrong way to do everything, and you might 
just as well learn the right way as the wrong way,” was the 
household gospel on which many present-day housewives were 
brought up. Likewise the routine of housework was more im- 
portant in a day when “women’s work [was] never done” and 
the twin concerns of home work and church work constituted 
the “right” activity for a woman and all the slow hand processes 
of the household had somehow to be crowded within the wak- 
ing hours of the six working days of the week with little 

orously pushed on the market by effective advertising may serve to slow 
up a secular trend. The heavy investment by the individual family in an 
electric washing machine costing from $60 to $200 tends to perpetuate a 
questionable institutional set-up — ^whereby many individual homes repeat 
common tasks day after day in isolated units — ^by forcing back into the 
individual home a process that was following belatedly the trend in in- 
dustry towards centralized operation. The whole procedure follows the 
customary, haphazard practice of social change: the issue is not settled 
on its merits; each Middletown household stands an isolated unit in the 
midst of a baffling battery of diffusion from personally interested agencies : 
the manufacturers of laundry machinery spray the thinking of the house- 
wife through her magazines with a shower of “educationar’ copy about 
the mistake of a woman’s neglecting her children for mere laundry work, 
and she lays down her magazine to answer the door-bell and finds there 
the suave installment payment salesman ready to install a $155 washer on 
trial, to be paid for in weekly installments if satisfactory. The whole ques- 
tion has to be settled in terms of such immediate and often incidental con- 
siderations by each isolated family unit. 



room for leisure. Today the various alternatives in the per- 
formance of her housework combine with the new alternative 
things to do in her newly-acquired leisure time to turn the 
either-or world of her mother into an array of multiple choices. 

Here, as in the case of clothing, advertising and the multi- 
plication of alternative standardized brands and methods are 
thrusting new illiteracies upon the home and its members more 
rapidly than the traditional 'liberal education’ ' and the deeply- 
grooved patterns under which "vocational education” is con- 
ceived are shifting to meet them. As more and more of the 
things utilized as food, clothing, and shelter are being shifted 
from home production to purchase for a price and as standards 
of living shift and varieties multiply, the housewife must dis- 
tinguish among various grades of milk, bread, vacuum cleaners, 
and fireless cookers, must decide against rugs made of grass 
for another type or vice versa, and so on through hundreds of 
items. At a time when growing industrial units in Middletown 
are more and more entrusting their purchasing to specialized 
skill, the home is, as in 1890, an essentially isolated, small- 
unit purchaser served by an untrained, amateur purchasing 
agent exposed to competing, highly organized channels of dif- 

Here again in these social sprains apparent in the activities 
of housekeeping one simply glimpses the enforced re-orienta- 
tion taking place in every department of making a home. In the 
agricultural life so recently behind Middletown, 

"the family was an economic institution as well as a biological 
and aifectional. It possessed recreational, educational, and protec- 
tive, as well as economic functions. The woman’s duties of spin- 
ning, weaving, sewing, preparing food, and gardening were as 
economically important as the man’s different activities. Divorce 
was infrequent in part because it disturbed these fundamental 
and supplementary economic and industrial activities. The family 
afforded a place where boys learned their trade, and where girls 
were trained to be skilled housewives. Owing to its settled abode 
and definite resources in property, dependent kin were easily pro- 
tected and cared for.” 

New cultural demands pressing upon this earlier compact home 
and family are altering its form: geographical vicinage and 
permanence of abode apparently play a weaker part in family 

32 F. S. Chapin, ‘^The Lag of Family Mores in Social Culture,*^ Journal 
of Applied Sociology^ Vol. IX, No. 4, p. 245. 



life; there are fewer children and other dependents in the home 
to hold husband and wife together; activities adapted to the 
age, sex, and temperament of its members are replacing many 
whole-family activities; with the growth of these extra-home 
activities involving money expenditure comes an increased 
emphasis upon the money nexus between members of the 
family; the impetus toward higher education, sending an in- 
creasing proportion of boys into lines of work not shared by 
their fathers, is likewise tending to widen the gap between 
the generations in standards of living and habits of thought; 
such new tools as the telephone and the automobile, while help- 
ing to keep members of the family in touch with each other, 
are also serving to make separate activities easier. 

Such changes go on in the midst of protest ; fresh encroach- 
ments tend to be met by a reassertion of the traditional noli 
tang ere attitude toward the ^"sacred institution'' of the home : 

"'Our children should have a growing conception of the family 
as a sacred organization," says the Course of Study for Ele- 
mentary Schools for 1924. 

"There are four big, fine thoughts that must be thought in 
every community," said a prominent Middletown club woman in 
addressing a community meeting in 1924, “thoughts of the home, 
of the church, of the school, of the community. The home is the 
first institution that God made. He intended it to be the unit 
of society — a father, mother, and children." 

“There are three notable words in the English language," said 
a paper given before one of the federated women's clubs in 1924, 
“mother, home, and heaven. . . . When women begin to resize 
the full value and importance of the profession of home-making, 
it grows dignified and glorified in their eyes and in the eyes of 
the community. It becomes an adequate career, and no girl need 
think she must leave her home in order to achieve her individ- 
uality. There is nothing like being a good home-maker to be able 
to raise up a child in the way he should go." 

"Home life," according to a leading Middletown business man, 
“is the center of everything; if that is gone, everything is gone." 

A speaker at the Middletown Chautauqua said, “We seem to 
be drifting away from the fundamentals in our home life. The 

The process of the secularization of man's several activities, involving 
“constant appeal from the new and clamorous economic interests of the day 
to the traditional Christian morality,” has been described by R. H. Tawney 
in Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (New York; Harcourt, Brace, 1926). 



home was once a sacred institution where the family spent most 
of its time. Now it is a physical service station except for the 
old and infirm.” 

Here, as elsewhere, one thing that determines whether a given 
change is welcomed or resisted appears to be the fact of its 
unsettling simply material traits or the personal attitudes, ideals, 
and values of the population. Changes, such as the adoption of 
electrical devices, refrigeration, and similar material factors, 
occur with relatively greater ease and speed than those touching 
marriage, the relation of parents and children, and other ^‘sanc- 
tities” of family life. Thus Middletown faces in two direc- 
tions as regards child-rearing: problems of child health, cloth- 
ing, and diet are accepted as subjects for empirical study and 
matter-of-fact handling, whereas the “morals,” “personalities,” 
and “characters” of its children are heavily barricaded against 
any direct, matter-of-fact approach. In a forum called to dis- 
cuss child-rearing, a mother prominent in the Mothers’ Council 
and in the educational work of the city said, “I believe there is 
no boy problem. Children are not a problem, but a joy. We can 
trust them, and God will lead them.” A leading^ minister, 
preaching on “The Bible as the Foundation of the Home,” 
said, “We learn more by way of our heart than we do by our 
head.” Many of the papers given before the Mothers’ Council 
tend to deal in generalities rather than addressing themselves to 
specific situations, e.g., “The duty of parents is to make their 
children realize the sacred duty of every man to vote, to exer- 
cise the political sacrament of the ballot.” In the case of some of 
the working class families there is a tendency to blanket ques- 
tions of child-rearing under formulas; in answer to every ques- 
tion in regard to children these mothers would not answer in 
terms of the specific situation, but by some such blanket-expla- 
nation as, “The cause of that is sin” (or “the devil”) and “the 
only remedy is salvation.” 


Chapter XIII 


In an institutional world as seemingly elaborate and complex 
as that of Middletown, the orientation of the child presents an 
acute problem. Living goes on all about him at a brisk pace, 
speeded up at every point by the utilization of complex short- 
hand devices — ^ranging all the way from the alphabet to daily 
market quotations and automatic machinery — ^through which 
vast quantities of intricate social capital are made to serve the 
needs of the commonest member of the group. As already 
noted, the home operates as an important transfer point of civi- 
lization, mediating this surrounding institutional world to the 
uninitiated newcomer. Religious agencies take a limited part in 
the child’s training at the option of his parents. True Story 
on the news-stand. Flaming Youth on the screen, books from 
the public library, the daily friction of life with playmates — ^all 
these make their casual though not insignificant contributions. 
But it is by yet another agency, the school, that the most formal 
and systematic training is imparted. 

When the child is six the community for the first time con- 
cerns itself with his training, and his systematic, high-pressure 
orientation to life begins. He continues to live at home under 
the nominal supervision of his parents, but for four to six 
hours a day,^ five days a week, nine months of the year, his life 
becomes almost as definitely routinized as his father’s in shop 
or office, and even more so than his mother’s at home; he “goes 
to school.” 

Prior to 1897 when the first state “compulsory education” 
law was passed, the child’s orientation to life might continue 
throughout as casually as in the first six years. Even after the 
coming of compulsory schooling only twelve consecutive weeks* 

1 Ranging from three hours and fifty minutes, exclusive of recess periods, 
in the first and second years, to five hours and fifty minutes in every year 
above the seventh. In 1^0 it was five hours daily for all years. 

i 82 


attendance each year between the ages of eight and fourteen 
was at first required. During the last thirty years, however, the 
tendency has been not only to require more constant attendance 
during each year,^ but to extend the years that must be devoted 
to this formal, group-directed training both upward and down- 
ward. Today, no person may stop attending school until he is 
fourteen,^ while by taking over and expanding in 1924 the 
kindergartens, hitherto private semi-charitable organizations, 
the community is now allowing children of five and even of 
four, if room permits, to receive training at public expense. 

This solicitude on the part of Middletown that its young have 
‘"an education’' is reflected in the fact that no less than 45 per 
cent, of all money expended by the city in 1925 was devoted to 
its schools. The fourteen school plants are valued at $1,600,- 
000 — ^nearly nine times the value of the school equipment in 
1890.“* During 1923-24 nearly seven out of ten of all those in 
the city between the ages of six and twenty-one were going 
regularly to day school, while many others of all ages were at- 
tending night classes. 

No records are kept in the Middletown schools of the ages 
and grades at which children withdraw from school. The 
lengthening average number of years during which each child 
remains in school, today can only be inferred from the heavier 
attendance in high school and college. While the city’s popula- 
tion has increased but three-and-one-half-fold since 1890, en- 
rollment in the four grades of the high school has mounted 
nearly elevenfold, and the number of those graduating has in- 
creased nineteenfold. In 1889-90 there were 170 pupils in the 

2 The average daily attendance in the two school years 1889-91 was 66 per 
cent of the school enrollment as against 83 per cent, for the two school years 

3 Cf, Ch. V. Children of fourteen who have completed the eighth grade 
in school may be given a certificate allowing them to start getting a living, 
provided they can prove that money is needed for the support of their 
families and that they attend school in special part-time classes at least five 
hours a week; children who have not finished the eighth grade may start 
getting a living at sixteen ; the community supervises the conditions under 
which they shall work until they are eighteen. Until 1924 the upper age 
limit for required school attendance was fourteen. The state law allows a 
city to require the^ minimum school attendance (five hours a week) for 
all children up to eighteen, but Middletown does not do this. 

^The annual expenditures of the state for elementary and secondary 
education, meanwhile, increased from $5,245,218 in 1890 to $63,358,807 in 



high school, one for every sixty-seven persons in the city, and 
the high school enrollment was only 8 per cent, of the total 
school enrollment, whereas in 1923-24 there were 1,849 pupds 
in high school, one for every twenty-one persons in the city, 
and the high school enrollment was 25 per cent, of the total 
school enrollment. In other words, most of Middletown's chil- 
dren now extend their education past the elementary school 
into grades nine to twelve. In 1882, five graduated from high 
school, one for each i,iio persons in the community; ® in 1890 
fourteen graduated, one for each 810 persons; in 1899 thirty- 
four graduated, "'one of the largest graduating classes the city 
ever had," making one for each 588 persons;® in 1920 114 
graduated, or one for each 320 persons; and in 1924, 236 
graduated, or one for each 161.^ 

Equally striking is the pressure for training even beyond 
high school. Of those who continue their training for twelve 
years, long enough to graduate from high school, over a third 
prolong it still further in college or normal work. Two of the 
fourteen members of the high school graduating class of 1890 
and nine of the thirty-two graduates of 1894 eventually entered 
a college or normal school, while by the middle of the October 
following graduation, a check of 153 of the 236 members of the 
class of 1924 revealed eighty as already in college, thirty-six of 
them in colleges other than the local college and forty-four 
taking either the four-year college course or normal training 
at the local college.® Between 1890 and 1924, while the popu- 
lation of the state increased only approximately 25 per cent., 
the number of students enrolled in the State University in- 

5 Population estimated at S,55o. 

® Population estimated at 20,000. 

’■ The 1920 Federal Census showed 76 per cent, of the city^s population 
aged fourteen and fifteen and 30 per cent, of the group aged sixteen and 
seventeen as in attendance at school ; the doubling of the high school grad- 
uating class between 1920 and 1924 suggests a substantial increase today over 
these 1920 percentages. According to the State Department of Public In- 
struction, high school attendance throughout the state increased 56 per 
cent, during the five years 1920 to 1924. 

The high school in Middletown is used by the township, but the number 
of pupils from outside the city is small and the population of Middletown 
has therefore been used above as the basis in figuring. 

s The 1924 data are from published lists in the high school paper and are 
not a sample, but probably include the majority of those who went to 
college. In addition to the eighty accounted for above, seven more were in 
business college, one in an art school at the state capitol, and three were 
taking post-graduate courses in high school. 

i84 training the YOUNG 

creased nearly 700 per cent,, and the number of those gradu- 
ating nearly 800 per cent. During the same period the number 
of students enrolled in -the state engineering and agricultural 
college increased 600 per cent., and the number of those gradu*' 
ating over 1,000 per cent. 

!6ven among those who do not go on to college or do not 
finish high school the same leaven is working ; there were, in 
the spring of 1925, 1,890 enrollments in evening courses in the 
local schools — 719 of them in trade and industry courses,^ 175 
in commercial courses, and 996 in home-making courses.^® 

In addition to other forms of training, fifty to one hundred 
people of both sexes take correspondence courses annually in 
the city. The Middletown Business College has an annual en- 
rollment of about 300 students, roughly half of them coming 
from Middletown. 

So general is the drive towards education in Middletown 
today that, instead of explaining why those who continue in, 
high school or even go on to college do so, as would have been 
appropriate a generation ago, it is simpler today to ask why 
those who do not continue their education fail to do so. An- 
swers to this question were obtained irajjlt forty-two mothers 
who had a total of sixty-seven childj:e|t^<^irty-seven girls and 
thirty boys, who had left high school. Fourteen girls and six 
boys had left because their financial help was needed at home ; 
three girls and twelve boys because they ‘Vanted to work’"; 
six girls because of “poor health,’" and one boy because of bad 
eyes; seven girls and six boys because they “didn’t like high 
school”; three of each left to go to business college and one 
girl to study music; one girl and two boys “had to take so many 

® Machine shop practice, carpentry, blue printing, drafting, pattern mak- 
ing, lathe and cabinet work, shop mathematics, chemistry. 

Sewing, dressmaking, millinery, applied design, basketry, planning and 
serving meals. 

In general, attendance at evening courses of all kinds tends to be larger 
in *‘bad times.” The director of this work attributes this to two factors : 
(i) people out of work have more time on their hands; (2) when com- 
petition for jobs is severe, workers realize the desirability of having edu- 
cation in addition to mere trade skill. A third factor, touching women only, 
is the increase in home sewing and the making of one’s own hats when 
times are bad and the family pocket-book empty; these women may join 
a course to make one hat or dress and then drop out. 

In 1923-24 the modal group among the men students were in their early 
twenties, while the modal group of women were in their thirties. 


things of no use’’; one girl was married; and one stayed home 
to help during her mother’s illness. 

Obviously such answers are superficial explanations, mask- 
ing in most cases a cluster of underlying factors. The matter 
of mental endowment is, naturally, not mentioned, although, 
according to Terman, ^'The pupils who drop out [of high 
school] are in the main pupils of inferior mental ability.” 
And yet, important though this consideration undoubtedly is, 
it must not too easily be regarded as the prepotent factor in 
the case of many of those who drop out of high school and in 
that of perhaps most of those who complete high school but 
do not go on to college ; standards are relatively low both in 
the high school and in a number of near-by colleges. The for- 
mal, remote nature of much school work probably plays a 
larger role in discouraging children from continuing in school 
than the reference above to having ''to take so many things of 
no use” indicates ; save in the case of certain vocational courses, 
a Middletown boy or girl must take the immediate relevancy 
and v^ue of the high school curriculum largely on faith. 

Potent among the determining factors in this matter of 
continuance in school is the economic status of a child’s family; 
here again, as in the case of the size of the house a given 
family occupies and in other significant accompaniments of 
living, we observe this extraneous pecuniary consideration 
dictating the course of the individual’s life. The emphasis upon 
this financial consideration in the answers of the Middletown 
mothers cited above probably underestimates the importance of 
money. A number of mothers who said that a child had left 

Terman, The Intelligence of School Children (Boston; Houghton 
Mifflin, 1919), PP. 87-90. 

Cf. in this connection the intelligence quotients of a cross-section of 
Middletown in Ch. V, and also, as pointed out in Ch. VI, the roughly 
identical proportions of working class and business class boys in the three 
upper years of the high school. 

12 In Middletown as in the rest of the state there seems to be little direct 
relation between the ability of high school seniors and the selection of those 
who go to college. Book says of the state, "Almost as many students pos- 
sessing E and F grades of intelligence are going to college as merit a 
ranking of A-plus or A. 

"Many of the brightest students graduating from our high schools are not 
planning to go to college at all. Of those rated A-plus, 22 per cent, stated 
that they never expected to attend a college or university. Of those rated 
A, 24 per cent, did not intend to continue their education beyond the high 
school. ... Of those ranking D and E, 64 and 62^ per cent, respectively 
stated they would attend college next year.” (^Op. cit,, pp. 39-40- ) 



school because he ‘ 'didn’t like it” finally explained with great 
reluctance, "We couldn’t dress him like we’d ought to and he 
felt out of it,” or, "The two boys and the oldest girl all quit 
because they hated Central High School. They all loved the 
Junior High School down here, but up there they’re so snob- 
bish. If you don’t dress right you haven’t any friends.” "My 
two girls and oldest boy have all stopped school,” said an- 
other mother. "My oldest girl stopped because we couldn’t give 
her no money for the right kind of clothes. The boy begged and 
begged to go on through high school, but his father wouldn’t 
give him no help. Now the youngest girl has left loB this year. 
She was doing just fine, but she was too proud to go to school 
unless she could have clothes like the other girls.” The marked 
hesitation of mothers in mentioning these distasteful social 
distinctions only emphasizes the likelihood that the reasons 
for their children’s leaving school summarized above understate 
the real situation in this respect. 

This influential position of the family’s financial status 
emerges again in the answers of the women interviewed regard- 
ing their plans for their children’s future, although these an- 
swers cannot be satisfactorily tabulated as they tended to be 
vague in families where children were still below high school 
age. Every business class mother among the group of forty 
interviewed was planning to send her children through high 
school, and all but three of the forty were definitely planning to 
send their children to college; of these three, two were planning 
a musical education for their children after high school, and the 
third had children under eight. Eight of those planning to send 
their children to college added, "If we can afford it.” Three 
were planning graduate work in addition to college. Two others 
said that musical study might be an alternative to college. 

The answers of the working class wives were in terms of 
"hope to” or "want to” ; in almost every case plans were con- 
tingent upon "if we can afford it.” Forty of these 124 working 
class families had no plans for their children’s education, eight- 
een of the forty having children in high school; the attitude of 
some of these mothers is expressed by the mother of nine chil- 
is working class children go to the Junior High School on the South 
Side until they have finished the ninth grade. For the last three years of the 
high school — ^tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades — ^all children of the city 
go to the Central High School on the North Side. 


dren who said wearily, ‘T don’t know ; we want them all to go as 
far as they can.” Of those who had plans for their children’s 
future, three were planning definitely to have their children stop 
school at sixteen, the legal age limit of compulsory attendance. 
Thirty-eight were planning if possible to have their children 
continue through high school. Five planned on the local Busi- 
ness College in addition to one or more years at high school ; 
four on the local Normal School; twenty-eight on college fol- 
lowing high school ; one on musical training in addition to high 
school ; five on music without high school ; and one on Business 
College without high school.^^ The answer of one mother con- 
veys the mood of many other families : ^'Our oldest boy is doing 
fine in high school and his father says he’d like to send him 
to some nice college. The others will go through high school 
anyhow. If children don’t have a good education they’ll never 
know anything except hard work. Their father wants them to 
have just as much schooling as he can afford.” Over and over 
again one sees both parents working to keep their children in 
college. 'T don’t know how we’re going to get the children 
through college, but we’re going to. A boy without an educa- 
tion today just ain’t anywhere T was the emphatic assertion of 
one father. 

If education is oftentimes taken for granted by the business 
class, it is no exaggeration to say that it evokes the fervor of 
a religion, a means of salvation, among a large section of the 
working class. Add to this the further fact, pointed out below, 
that the high school has become the hub of the social life of the 
young of Middletown, and it is not surprising that high school 
attendance is almost as common today as it was rare a genera- 
tion ago. 

These figures are given in terms of families, not children. In some cases 
the plans given apply to only one or two children in a family when the 
parents have no plans for the others. 

15 Cf. in Table XIV the greater emphasis of working class mothers on 
“getting good grades in school” and “making a name in the world” in 
training their children. 

Chapter XIV 


The school, like the factory, is a thoroughly regimented 
world. Immovable seats in orderly rows fix the sphere of ac- 
tivity of each child. For all, from the timid six-year-old enter- 
ing for the first time to the most assured high school senior, the 
general routine is much the same. Bells divide the day into 
periods. For the six-year-olds the periods are short (fifteen to 
twenty-five minutes) and varied; in some they leave their seats, 
play games, and act out make-believe stories, although in ^Reci- 
tation periods’’ all movement is prohibited. As they grow older 
the taboo upon physical activity becomes stricter, until by the 
third or fourth year practically all movement is forbidden ex- 
cept the marching from one set of seats to another between 
periods, a brief interval of prescribed exercise daily, and periods 
of manual training or home economics once or twice a week. 
There are ^'study-periods” in which children learn "lessons” 
from "text-books” prescribed by the state and "recitation- 
periods” in which they tell an adult teacher what the book has 
said; one hears children reciting the battles of the Civil War in 
one recitation period, the rivers of Africa in another, the "parts 
of speech” in a third ; the method is much the same. With high 
school come some differences; more "vocational” and "labora- 
tory” work varies the periods. But here again the lesson-text- 
book-recitation method is the chief characteristic of education. 
For nearly an hour a teacher asks questions and pupils answer, 
then a bell rings, on the instant books bang, powder and mirrors 
come out, there is a buzz of talk and laughter as all the urgent 
business of living resumes momentarily for the children, notes 
and "dates” are exchanged, five minutes pass, another bell, 
gradual sliding into seats, a final giggle, a last vanity case 
snapped shut, "In our last lesson we had just finished” — ^and 
another class is begun. 

All this ordered industry of imparting and learning facts 



and skills represents an effort on the part of this matter-of-fact 
community immersed in its daily activities to endow its young 
with certain essential supplements to the training received in 
the home. A quick epitome of the things adult Middletown has 
come to think it important for its children to learn in school, 
as well as some indication of regions of pressure and change, 
is afforded by the following summary of the work in Grades I 
and VII in 1890 and in 1924: 





Writing ^ 





Object Lessons (Science) 










Civic Training 

History and Civics 
Hygiene and Health 
Physical Education 



Writing ^ 







Object Lessons (Science) 

Compositions and Declamation 









Civic Training 

History and Civics 
Manual Arts (Boys) 
Home Economics (Girls) 
Physical Education 

In the culture of thirty-five years ago it was deemed sufficient 
to teach during the first seven years of this extra-home train- 
ing the following skills and facts, in rough order of im- 
portance : ^ 

^ The state law of 1865 upon which the public school system rests pro- 
vided for instruction in “orthography, reading, writing, arithmetic, Eng- 
lish, grammar, and good behavior,” and the minutes of the Middletown 
School Board for 1882 (the only minutes for a decade on either side of 


a. The various uses of language. (Overwhelmingly first in 
importance. ) 

b. The accurate manipulation of numerical symbols. 

c. Familiarity with the physical surroundings of peoples. 

d. A miscellaneous group of facts about familiar physical ob- 
jects about the child — ^trees, sun, ice, food, and so on. 

e. The leisure-time skills of singing and drawing. 

Today the things for which all children are sent to school fall 
into the following rough order; 

a. The same uses of language. 

b. The same uses of numerical figures. 

r. Training in patriotic citizenship. 

d. The same familiarity with the physical surroundings of 

e. Facts about how to keep well and some physical exercise. 

/, The same leisure-time skills of singing and drawing. 

g. Knowledge and skills useful in sewing, cooking and using 
tools about the home for the girls, and, for the boys, an introduc- 
tory acquaintance with some of the manual skills by which the 
working class members get their living. 

Both in its optional, non-compulsory character and also in 
its more limited scope the school training of a generation ago 
appears to have been a more casual adjunct of the main business 
of ‘‘bringing up’’ that went on day by day in the home. Today, 
however, the school is relied upon to carry a more direct, if at 
most points still vaguely defined, responsibility. This has in turn ’ 
reacted upon the content of the teaching and encouraged a more 
utilitarian approach at certain points. A slow trend toward 
utilizing material more directly instrumental to the day-by-day 
urgencies of living appears clearly in such a course as that in 
hygiene and health, epitomized in the text-books used a genera- 
tion ago and today, Jenkins’ Advanced Lessons in Human 
Physiology in the one case and Emerson and Betts’ Physiology 
and Hygiene in the other. The earlier book devoted twenty-one 
chapters, 287 of its 296 pages, to the structure and function of 
the body — “The Skeleton,” “The Skin and the Kidneys,” “The 

1890 which describe the course of study in detail) affirm that ‘^reading, 
writing, and arithmetic are the three principal studies of the public schools, 
and if nothing more is possible, pupils should be taught to read the news- 
papers, write a letter, and perform the ordinary operations of arithmetic.” 


Anatomy o£ the Nervous System/’ and so on, and a final 
chapter, eight and one-quarter pages, to "'the laws of health” ; 
a three-page appendix on "Poisons and Antidotes” gave the 
various remedies to be used to induce vomiting after poisoning 
by aconite, arsenic, and so on, as well as rules for treating 
asphyxia. The current book, on the other hand, is primarily 
concerned throughout with the care of the body, and its struc- 
ture is treated incidentally. Examination questions in the two 
periods show the same shift. Characteristic questions of 1890 
such as "Describe each of the two kinds of matter of the 
nervous system” and "Tell weight and shape of brain. Tell 
names of membranes around it” are being replaced by "Write 
a paragraph describing exactly the kind of shoe you should 
wear, stating all the good points and the reasons for them,” and 
"What is the law of muscles and bones (regarding posture) ? 
How should it guide you in your daily life?” 

Geography, likewise, according to the printed courses of 
study for the two periods, is less concerned today with mem- 
orizing "at least one important fact about each city located” 
and more with the "presence of storm and sunshine and song 
of bird,” "interests of the child”; but classes visited are pre- 
occupied with learning of facts, and 1890 and 1924 examina- 
tion questions are interchangeable. Reading, spelling, and 
arithmetic, also, exhibit at certain points less emphasis upon 
elaboration of symbols and formal drill and more on the 
"practical application” of these skills; thus in reading, some- 
what less attention is being paid to "clear and distinct enuncia- 
tion” and "proper emphasis and expression” and more to "silent 
reading,” which stresses content. But, in general, these subjects 
which are "the backbone of the curriculum” show less flexi- 
bility than do the subjects on the periphery or the newcomers. 
Most of these changes are indeed relatively slight; the social 
values represented by an "elementary education” are changing 
slowly in Middletown. 

When we approach the high school, however, the matter-of- 
fact tendency of the city to commandeer education as an aid in 
dealing with its own concerns becomes more apparent.^ Caught 
less firmly than the elementary school in the cake of tradition 
and now forced to train children from a group not heretofore 

2 Cf. in Ch. XXV the discussion of the dental and other health work in 
the schools as another manifestation of this same tendency. 



reached by it, the high school has been more adaptable than the 
lower school. Here group training no longer means the same 
set of facts learned on the same days by all children of a given 
grade. The freshman entering high school may plan to spend 
his four years following any one of twelve different "'courses of 
study”;® he may choose the sixteen different yearly courses 
which will make up his four years of training from a total of 
102.^ All this is something new, for the 170 students who were 
going to high school in the "bursting days of boom” of 1889-90 
had to choose, as Middletown high school students had done for 
thirty years, between two four-year courses, the Latin and the 
English courses, the sole difference between them being whether 
one did or did not take "the language.” The number of sepa- 
rate year courses open to them totaled but twenty. 

The facts and skills constituting the present-day high school 
curriculum present a combination of the traditional learning 
reputed to be essential to an "educated” man or woman and 

3 I. General Course 

2. College Preparatory Course 

3. Music Course 

4. Art Course 

5. Shorthand Course 

6. Bookkeeping course 

7. Applied Electricity Course 

8. Mechanical Drafting Course 

9. Printing Course 

10. Machine Shop Course 

11. Manual Arts Course 

12. Home Economics Course 

Courses Three to Twelve inclusive have a uniform first-year group of 
required and elective subjects. Four subjects are taken each half of each 
year, of which two or three are required and the rest selected from among 
a list offering from two to nine electives, according to the course and the 
year. The indispensables of secondary education required of every high 
school student are: 

Four years of English for those taking Courses One through Six. 

Three years of English for those taking Courses Seven through Twelve. 

One year of algebra. 

One year of general history. 

One year of American history. 

One-half year of civics. 

One-half year of sociology. 

One year of science. 

One-half year of music. 

One-half year of gymnasium. 

This constitutes a total of ten required and six elective one-year courses or 
their equivalents during the four years for the academic department 
(Courses One through Six) and nine required and seven elective courses 
for those in the vocational department (Courses Seven through Twelve). 

^The year unit rather than the term or semester unit is taken here as 
the measure of the number of courses, since it furnishes the only basis 
of comparison with 18^. When different subjects make up one year’s course 
they are almost invariably related, e.g., civics and sociology, zoology and 



newer applied information or skills constantly being inserted 
into the curriculum to meet current immanent concerns. Here, 
too, English, the successor in its varied forms of the language 
work in the grades, far outdistances all competitors for student 
time, consuming 22 per cent, of all student hours.® It is no 
longer compulsory throughout the entire four years as it was a 
generation ago; instead, it is required of all students for the 
first two years, and thereafter the earlier literary emphasis dis- 
appears in seven of the twelve courses, being replaced in the 
third year by commercial English, while in the fourth year it 
disappears entirely in five courses save as an optional subject. 
Both teaching and learning appear at times to be ordeals from 
which teachers and pupils alike would apparently gladly escape : 
‘'Thank goodness, we’ve finished Chaucer’s Prologue T ex- 
claimed one high school English teacher. ‘T am thankful and 
the children are, too. They think of it almost as if it were in 
a foreign language, and they hate it.” 

Latin, likewise, though still regarded by some parents of 
the business class as a vaguely significant earmark of the edu- 
cated man or woman, is being rapidly attenuated in the training 
given the young. It is not required of any student for even one 
year, though in one of the twelve courses it or French is re- 
quired for two years. Gone is the required course of the nineties 
taken by over half of the high school students for the entire 
four years and enticingly set forth in the course of study of the 
period as "Latin, Grammar, Harkness : Begun-Completed. 
Latin, Reader, Harkness: Begun-Completed. Latin, Caesar, 
Harkness ; Begun-Completed. Latin, Virgil, Harkness : Begun- 
Completed.” The "Virgil Club’s” annual banquet and the 
"Latin Wedding” are, however, prominent high school social 
events today, and more than one pupil confessed that the lure 
of these in the senior year helped to keep him through four 
years of Latin. Although Latin is deader than last summer’s 
straw hat to the men joshing each other about Middletown’s 
Rotary luncheon table, tradition, the pressure of college en- 
trance requirements, and such incidental social considerations 
as those just mentioned still manage to hold Latin to a place of 
prominence in the curriculum: 10 per cent, of all student hours 
are devoted to Latin, as against but 2 per cent, each to French 

® See Table XVI for ^ complete distribution of student hours in the high 



and Spanish ; ® only English, the combined vocational courses, 
mathematics, and history consume more student hours. 

The most pronounced region o£ movement appears in the 
rush of courses that depart from the traditional dignified con- 
ception of what constitutes education and seek to train for 
specific tool and skill activities in factory, office, and home. 
A generation ago a solitary optional senior course in book- 
keeping was the thin entering wedge of the trend that today 
controls eight of the twelve courses of the high school and 
claimed 17 per cent, of the total student hours during the first 
semester of 1923-24 and 21 per cent, during the second.*^ At 
no point has the training prescribed for the preparation of 
children for effective adulthood approached more nearly actual 
preparation for the dominant concerns in the daily lives of the 
people of Middletown. This pragmatic commandeering of edu- 
iration is frankly stated by the president of the School Board : 
^’^For a long time all boys were trained to be President. Then 
for a while we trained them all to be professional men. Now we 
are training boys to get jobs.^^ 

Unlike Latin, English, and mathematics in that they have no 
independent, honorific traditions of their own, these vocational 
courses have frankly adopted the canons of office and machine 
shop : they must change in step with the coming of new physical 
equipment in machine shops and offices, or become ineffective.® 

® Since the World War German has not been taught in Middletown. 

7 See Table XVI for the distribution of these hours among commercial, 
domestic science, manual arts, and vocational work and also for their rela- 
tion to other courses in point of student hours. In the case of English, the 
only subject or group of subjects to exceed the time spent on these non- 
academic courses, it should be borne in mind that in seven of the twelve 
courses of study offered by the high school one-third of the total English 
work required is a new vocational kind of English called commercial Eng- 
lish, reflecting the workaday emphasis rather than the older academic 
emphasis in the curriculum. 

It should also be recalled that, in addition to this high school work, 
manual arts is compulsory for all boys in Grades VI to VIII of the ele- 
mentary school, and home economics is also compulsory for girls in 
Grades VII and VIII. 

8 This conformity to existing conditions is accentuated by the necessity 
of bidding for union support and falling in with current trade union prac- 
tices. The attitude of the unions toward this school training varies all the 
way from that of the carpenters whose president attends the evening classes 
and who start a high school trained boy with a journeyman’s card and 
corresponding wages to that of the bricklayers and plasterers who start a 
high school vocational graduate at exactly the same wage as an untrained 



A recently organized radio class shows the possibility of quick 
adaptability to new developments. More than any other part 
of the school training, these vocational courses consist in learn- 
ing how rather than learning about. Actual conditions of work 
in the city’s factories are imported into the school shops ; boys 
bring repair work from their homes; they study auto mechanics 
by working on an old Ford car; they design, draft, and make 
patterns for lathes and drill presses, the actual casting being 
done by a Middletown foundry; they have designed and con- 
structed a house, doing all the architectural, carpentry, wiring, 
metal work, and painting. A plan for providing work in a local 
machine shop, alternating two weeks of this with two weeks 
of study throughout the year, is under discussion. 

Under the circumstances, it is not surprising that this voca- 
tional work for boys is the darling of Middletown’s eye — if 
we except a group of teachers and of parents of the business 
class who protest that the city’s preoccupation with vocational 
work tends to drag down standards in academic studies and to 
divert the future college student’s attention from his prepara- 
tory courses.^ Like the enthusiastically supported high school 
basket-ball team, these vocational courses have caught the imag- 
ination of the mass of male tax-payers; ask your neighbor at 
Rotary what kind of schools Middletown has and he will begin 
to tell you about these ‘dive” courses. It is not without signifi- 

® Many* Middletown people maintain that the coming of vocational work 
to the high school has tended greatly to lower its standing as a college pre- 
paratory school. More than one mother shook her head over the fact that 
her daughter never does any studying at home and is out every evening but 
gets A’s in all her work. It is generally recognized that a boy or girl grad- 
uating from the high school can scarcely enter an eastern college without 
a year of additional preparatory work elsewhere. 

Leading nationally known universities in neighboring states gave the 
following reports of the work of graduates of the Middletown high school : 
In one, of eleven Middletown students over a period of fifteen years, one 
graduated, none of the others made good records, four were asked to 
withdraw because of poor scholarship; of the four in residence in 1924, 
two were on probation, one was on the warned list, and one was doing fair 
work. In another, of five Middletown students in the last five years, one 
did excellent work, one fair, two did very poor work and dropped out 
after the first term, one had a record below requirement at the time of 
withdrawal. In a third, of eight Middletown students in the last five years, 
one was an excellent student, four were fair, and three were on probation. 
The single Middletown student in a fourth university attended for only a 
year and was on probation the entire time. 


cance that vcx:ational supervisors are more highly paid than 
any other teachers in the school system. 

Much of what has been said of the strictly vocational courses 
applies also to work in bookkeeping and stenography and in 
home economics. The last-named, entirely new since 1890, is de- 
vised to meet the functional needs of the major group of the 
girls, who will be home-makers. Beginning in the seventh and 
eighth years with the study of food, clothing, and house-plan- 
ning, it continues as an optional course through the high school 
with work in dressmaking, millinery, hygiene and home nursing, 
household management, and selection of food and clothing. 
As in the boys' vocational work, these courses center in the 
more obvious, accepted group practices; much more of the work 
in home economics, for example, centers in the traditional 
household productive skills such as canning, baking, and sew- 
ing, than in the rapidly growing battery of skills involved in 
effective buying of ready-made articles. The optional half- 
year course for the future business girl in selection of food and 
clothing, equipping a girl '‘to be an intelligent consumer," 
marks, however, an emergent recognition of a need for training 
in effective consumption, as does also the class visiting of local 
stores to inspect and discuss various kinds of household articles. 
In 1925 a new course in child care and nutrition was offered in 
one of the grade schools; while it consists almost entirely in the 
study of child feeding rather than of the wider aspects of child 
care, it is highly significant as being the first and sole effort on 
the part of the community to train women for this fundamental 
child-rearing function. Standard women's magazines are re- 
sorted to in these courses for girls as freely as technical journals 
are employed in the courses for boys. 

Second only in importance to the rise of these courses ad- 
dressed to practical vocational activities is the new emphasis 
upon courses in history and civics. These represent yet another 
point at which Middletown is bending its schools to the imme- 
diate service of its institutions — in this case, bolstering com- 
munity solidarity against sundry divisive tendencies. A genera- 
tion ago a course in American history was given to those who 
survived until the eighth grade, a course in general history, 
‘‘covering everything from the Creation to the present in one 
little book of a hundred or so pages," followed in the second 
year of the high school, and one in civil government in the 



tiiird year. Today, separate courses in civic training and in 
history and civics begin with the first grade for all children and 
continue throughout the elementary school, while in high 
school the third-year course in American history and the 
fourth-year course in civics and sociology are, with the excep- 
tion of the second-year English course, the only courses re- 
quired of all students after the completion of the first year. 
Sixteen per cent, of the total student hours in the high school 
are devoted to these social studies — ^history, sociology, and 
civics — a total surpassed only by those of English and the com- 
bined cluster of vocational, domestic science, manual arts, and 
commercial courses. 

Evidently Middletown has become concerned that no child 
shall be without this pattern of the group.^® Precisely what this 
stamp is appears clearly in instructions to teachers : 

‘^The most fundamental impression a study of history should 
leave on the youth of the land when they have reached the period 

"Good citizenship as an aim in life is nothing new. . . . But good citi- 
zenship as a dominant aim of the American public school is something new. 
. . . For the first time in history, as I see it, a social democracy is attempt- 
ing to shape the opinions and bias the judgment of oncoming generations.^' 
From the Annual Report of Dean James E. Russell of Teachers College for 
the year ending June, 1925. 

In view of the manifest concern in Middletown to dictate the social 
attitudes of its young citizens, the concentration of college attendance of 
local high school graduates in local or near-by institutions is significant. As 
noted in the preceding chapter, forty-four of the eighty members of the 
high school class of 1924 who were attending college were enrolled in the 
small- local college; twelve more were in the two state universities, ten 
more in other small colleges within the state, nine were in small colleges 
in adjoining states, two in nationally known state universities in adjoining 
states, two in prominent eastern colleges, and one in an eastern school 
giving specialized training — a total of sixty-six within the city or state, 
eleven in immediately adjoining states, and three in distant states. This, 
when coupled with the tendency already pointed out for from one-third to 
one-half of each high school graduating class, including almost certainly 
many of the most enterprising and original members, to migrate to other 
communities, and the further tendency of Middletown to favor teachers 
trained within the state, presents some interesting implications for the 
process of social change in Middletown. 

Descriptions of courses and instructions to teachers as set forth by the 
School Board or State Department of Education sometimes bear little rela- 
tion to what children are actually being taught in the class-room. But they 
do show what those directing the training of the young think ought to be 
taught and what they believe the public thinks ought to be taught. As indi- 
cating major characteristics of this culture, therefore, they are, in one 
sense, even more significant than the things that actually go^ on in the 
class-room. And by and large they do, of course, indicate trends in teaching. 



of citizenship/’ begins the section on history and civics of the 
Middletown Course of Study of the Elementary Schools, ‘'is that 
they are their government’s keepers as well as their brothers’ 
keepers in a very true sense. This study should lead us to feel 
and will that sacrifice and service for our neighbor are the best 
fruits of life; that reverence for law, which means, also, rever- 
ence for God, is fundamental to citizenship ; that private property, 
in the strictest sense, is a trust imposed upon us to be administered 
for the public good; that no man can safely live unto him- 
self. . . 

“History furnishes no parallel of national growth, national 
prosperity and national achievement like ours,” asserts the State 
Manual for Secondary Schools for 1923. “Practically all of this 
has been accomplished since we adopted our present form of 
government, and we are justified in believing that our political 
philosophy is right, and that those who are today assailing it are 
wrong. To properly grasp the philosophy of this government of 
ours, requires a correct knowledge of its history.” 

The State Manual for Elementary Schools for 1921 instructs 
that “a sense of the greatness of their state and a pride in its his- 
tory should be developed in the minds of children,” and quotes 
as part of its directions to teachers of history : “The right of revo- 
lution does not exist in America. We had a revolution 140 years 
ago which made it unnecessary to have any other revolution in 
this country. . . . One of the many meanings of democracy is 
that it is a form of government in which the right of revolution 
has been lost. ... No man can be a sound and sterling Ameri- 
can who believes that force is necessary to effectuate the poplar 
will. . , . Americanism . . . emphatically means . . . that we 
have repudiated old European methods of settling domestic ques- 
tions, and have evolved for ourselves machinery by which revolu- 
tion as a method of changing our life is outgrown, abandoned, 

The president of the Board of Education, addressing a meet- 
ing of Middletown parents in 1923, said that “many educators 
have failed to face the big problem of teaching patriotism. . . . 
We need to teach American children about American heroes and 
American ideals.” 

The other social studies resemble history in their announced 
aims : civic training, with its emphasis upon respect for private 
property, respect for public property, respect for law, respect 
for the home, appreciation of services of good men and women, 



and so on ; economics, with its stressing of “common and fun- 
damental principles,’’ “the fundamental institutions of society: 
private property, guaranteed privileges, contracts, personal lib- 
erty, right to establish private enterprises” ; and sociology. 

Nearly thirty-five years ago the first high school annual 
summarized the fruits of four years of high school training as 
follows : “Many facts have been presented to us and thus more 
knowledge has been attained.” Such a summary would be nearly 
as applicable today, and nowhere more so than in these social 
studies. Teaching varies from teacher to teacher, but with a 
few outstanding exceptions the social studies are taught with 
close reliance upon textbooks prescribed by the state and in 
large measure embodying its avowed aims. A leading teacher 
of history and civics in the high school explained : 

“In class discussion I try to bring out minor points, two 
ways of looking at a thing and all that, but in examinations I 
try to emphasize important principles and group the main facts 
that they have to remember around them. I always ask simple 
fact questions in examinations. They get all mixed up and con- 
fused if we ask questions where they have to think, and write 
all over the place.” 

In the case of history, facts presented in the textbooks are, 
as in 1890, predominantly military and political, although mili- 
tary affairs occupy relatively less space than in the nineties. 
Facts concerning economic and industrial development receive 
^ore emphasis than in the earlier texts, although political devel- 
opt^nt is still the core. Recent events as compared with the 
colonial period in colonial history are somewhat more prom- 
inent today.^^ Examination questions of the two periods indi- 
cate so little change in method and emphasis in teaching that it 
is almost impossible simply by reading a history examination 
to tell whether it is of 1890 or 1924 vintage. 

12 See W. C Bagley and H. O. Rugg, The Content of American History 
as Taught in the Seventh and Eighth Grades (University of Illinois School 
of Education Bulletin No. 16, Vol. XIII, 1916), comparing textbooks from 
1865 to 1911, with a supplemental^ study by Earle Rugg of Eight 
Current Histories, and Snyder’s An Analysis of the Content of Elementary 
High School History Texts (University of Chicago Doctor’s Dissertation, 
1919). Montgomery’s The Leading Facts of American History, used in the 
Middletown schools in the nineties, and Woodburn and Moran’s American 
History ana Government, used in 1924, were included in the Rugg-Bagley 
study. Fite’s History of the United States, used in the Middletown schools 
in 1924, was included in Snyder’s study. 



It may be a commentary upon the vitality of this early and 
persistent teaching of American history that when pictures 
like the Yale Press historical series are brought to Middletown 
the children say they get enough history in school, the adults 
say they are too grown up for such things, and the attendance 
is so poor that the exhibitor says, ‘'Never again 

Further insight into the stamp of the group with which 
Middletown children complete their social studies courses is 
gained through the following summary of answers of 241 
boys and 315 girls, comprising the social science classes of the 
last two years of the high school, to a questionnaire : 

Percentage Percentage Percentage Percentage 
answering answering answering not 
^^True*' ^'False'' Uncertain"* answering 


Boys Girls Boys Girls Boys Girls Boys Girls 

The white race is the best 

race on earth 66 75 19 17 14 6 i 2 

The United States is un- 
questionably the best coun- 
try in the world 77 88 10 6 II 5 21 

Every good citizen should 
act according to the follow- 
ing statement : “My country 

— right or wrong 1” 47 56 40 29 9 10 4 5 

A citizen of the United ^ 

States should be allowed to 

say anything he pleases, 

even to advocate violent 

revolution, if he does no 

violent act himself 20 16 70 75 7 7 3 2 

The recent labor govern- 
ment in England was a mis- 
fortune for England 16 15 38 20 38 57 8 8 

The United States was en- 
tirely right and England 
was entirely wrong in the 

American Revolution 30 33 55 40 13 25 2 2 

Students were requested to write “true,"’ “false,” or “uncertain” after 
each statement. No answers of Negroes are included in this summary. The 
greater conservatism of the girls in their answers to some of the questions 
is noteworthy. See Appendix on Method. See Index for other answers. 







Boys Girls 

The Allied Governments in 
the World War were fight- 
ing for a wholly righteous 
cause 65 75 

Germany and Austria were 
the only nations responsi- 
ble for causing the World 
War 22 25 

The Russian Bolshevist 
government should be rec- 
ognized by the United 
States Government 8 5 

A pacifist in war time is a 
‘^slacker” and should be 
prosecuted by the govern- 
ment f 40 36 

The fact that some men 
have so much more money 
than others shows that there 
is an unjust condition in 
this country which ought to 
be changed 25 31 

Percentage Percentage Percentage 
answering answering not 
False*' ^‘Uncertain** answering 

B oys Girls B oys Girls B oys Girls 

22 8 II 14 23 

62 42 15 31 12 

7 Z 67 17 24 24 

34 28 22 28 48 

70 62 4 5 12 

Other new emphases in the training given the young may 
be noted briefly. Natural sciences, taught in 1890 virtually with- 
out a laboratory by a teacher trained in English and mathe- 
matics and by the high school principal who also taught all other 
junior and senior subjects, is today taught in well-equipped 
student laboratories by specially trained teachers. In the first 
and second semesters of 1923-24, 7 per cent, and 8 per cent, 
respectively of the student hours were devoted to the natural 

Although art and music appear to occupy a lesser place in 

Says the high school annual in 1894 : ^'The laboratory is situated in 
what is known as the south office — ^a room six by four feet. On the east 
side of the room are a few shelves containing a half dozen bottles of 
chemicals. This is the extent of the chemical ‘laboratory.^ The physical lab- 
oratory will be found (with the aid of a microscope) in the closet adjoin- 
ing the south office. Here will be found the remnants of an old electric 
outfit, and a few worn-out pieces of apparatus to illustrate the principles 
of natural philosophy.^’ 

See Table XVI. 



the spontaneous leisure-time life of Middletown than they did 
a generation ago/® both are more prominent in the training 
given the young. In 1890 both were unknown in the high 
school except for the informal high school choir ; a lone music 
teacher taught three hours a day in the grades ; and ''drawing’" 
was taught "as an aid to muscular coordination” on alternate 
days with writing. Today art is taught in all eight years of the 
grades, while in the high school a student may center his four 
years’ work in either art or music, two of the twelve courses 
being built around these subjects. The high school art courses 
consist in creative work, art history, and art appreciation, while 
art exhibits and art contests reach far beyond formal class- 
room work.^’’ Over and above the work in ear training and 
sight reading throughout the grades, there are today sixteen 
high school music courses in addition to classes in instrumental 
work. They include not only instruction in harmony, history of 
music, and music appreciation, but a chorus, four Glee Clubs, 
three orchestras, and two bands. Victrolas, now a necessary part 
of the equipment of all schools, and an annual music memory 
contest in the schools, further help to bring music within the 
reach of all children.^® 

Another innovation today is the more explicit recognition 
that education concerns bodies as well as minds. Gymnasium 
work, required of all students during the last year of the ele- 
mentary school and the first year of the high school, replaces 
the earlier brief periods of "setting-up exercises” and seems 
likely to spread much more widely. 

Abundant evidence has appeared throughout this chapter 
of the emphasis upon values and "right” attitudes in this busi- 
es Cf. Ch. XVII. 

The class work itself reaches all groups of students. A barber com- 
mented proudly on the interest of his daughter, a high school junior, in her 
art work: ‘‘We have some friends that made fun of her for taking art — 
they thought it meant painting big pictures. My wife heard her talking 
art to some people the other day and says she could hold up her end with 
the best of ’em. I’m all for it. Now it has practical applications. When it 
comes to fixing up a house she’ll know what things go good together.” 

Cf. Ch. XVII. Neither this music work nor the art work in the 
schools appears to be as rooted in the present-day local life as the emphasis 
upon vocational education and the social studies. In fact, they represent a 
tradition less strong in the everyday life of the city today than a generation 
ago. Whether they will tend to increase spontaneous and active participa- 
tion in music and art, as opposed to the passive enjoyment of them that 
predominates in this culture today, is problematical. 


ness of passing along the lore of the elders to the yoting of 
Middletown. Since the religious attitudes and values are nom- 
inally held in this culture to overshadow all others, no account 
of the things taught in the schools would be adequate without a 
discussion of the relation of the schools to the religious beliefs 
and practices of the city. Getting a living, as we have observed, 
goes forward without any accompanying religious ceremonies 
or without any formal relation to the religious life of the city 
save that it ‘'keeps the Sabbath day.’' Religion permeates the 
home at many points : marriage, birth, and death are usually ac- 
companied or followed by religious rites, the eating of food is 
frequently preceded by its brief verbal blessing, most children 
are taught to say their prayers before retiring at night, a Bible 
is found in nearly every home, and the entire family tradition- 
ally prays together daily, though this last, as noted elsewhere, is 
becoming rare; the family itself is regarded as a sacred insti- 
tution, though being secularized at many points. Leisure-time 
practices are less often today opened by prayer or hymns; 
though they have traditionally "‘observed the Sabbath,” abun- 
dant testimony appears throughout this study of the attenua- 
tion of such observance of the “Lord’s Day” by young and 
old. The common group affairs of the city, likewise, are in- 
creasingly carried on, like getting a living, without direct 
recourse to religious ceremonies and beliefs. In the midst of the 
medley of secularized and non-secular ized ways of living in the 
city, education steers a devious course. One religious group, the 
Catholics, trains its children in a special school building under 
teachers who are professional religious devotees and wear a 
religious garb; this school adjoins the church and the children 
attend a church service as part of their day’s schooling. For 
the great mass of children, however, separate Sunday Schools, 
in no way controlled by the secular schools, teach the accepted 
religious beliefs to those who choose to attend. The Y.M.C.A. 
and Y.W.C.A. serve as a liaison between church and school, 
teaching Bible classes in all elementary schools, for the most 
part on school time, and giving work in the high school for 
which credit is granted towards graduation. But while the pub- 
lic schools themselves do not teach the group’s religious be- 
liefs directly, these beliefs tacitly underlie much that goes on 
in the class-room, more particularly those classes concerned 
not with the manipulation of material tools but with the teach- 



ing of ideas, concepts, attitudes. The first paragraph in the 
‘‘Course of Study of the Elementary Schools” enjoins upon the 
teachers that “all your children should join in opening the day 
with some exercise which will prepare them with thankful 
hearts and open minds for the work of the day. . . . The Bible 
should be heard and some sacred song sung.” The School Board 
further instructs its teachers that geography should teach “the 
spirit of reverence and appreciation for the works of God — 
that these things have been created for [man’s] joy and ele- 
vation . . , that the earth in its shape and movements, its 
mountains and valleys, its drought and flood, and in all things 
that grow upon it, is well planned for man in working out his 
destiny”; that history should teach “the earth as the field of 
man’s spiritual existence”; that hygiene create interest in the 
care of the body “as a fit temple for the spirit” ; finally that “the 
schools should lead the children, through their insight into the 
things of nature that they study, to appreciate the power, wis- 
dom, and goodness of the Author of these things. They should 
see in the good things that have come out of man’s struggle 
for a better life a guiding hand stronger than his own. . , . 
The pupils should learn to appreciate the Bible as a fountain of 
truth and beauty through the lessons to be gotten from it. . . .” 

This emphasis was if anything even stronger in 1890. At the 
Teachers’ Institute in 1890 botany was discussed as a subject 
in which “by the study of nature we are enabled to see the per- 
fection of creation,” and a resolution was passed that “the 
moral qualifications of the teachers should be of such a nature 
as to make them fit representatives to instruct for both time and 
eternity.” “In morals, show the importance of building upon 
principles. Encourage the pupil to do right because it is right,” 
said the School Board instructions for 1882. One gains a dis- 
tinct impression that the religious basis of all education was 
more taken for granted if less talked about thirty-five years ago, 
when high school “chapel” was a religio-inspirational service 
with a “choir” instead of the “pep session” which it tends to 
become today. 

Some inkling of the degree of dominance of religious ways 
of thinking at the end of ten or twelve years of education is 
afforded by the answers of the 241 boys and 315 girls in the 
social science classes of the last two years of the high school 
appraising the statement: “The theory of evolution offers a 



more accurate account of the origin and history of mankind 
flian that offered by a literal interpretation of the first chapters 
of the Bible” : 19 per cent, of them marked it “true,” 48 per 
cent, “false,” 26 per cent, were “uncertain,” and 7 per cent, did 
not answer. 

Chapter XV 


In the school as in the home, child-training is largely left 
to the womenfolk. Four-fifths of Middletown’s teachers are 
women, the majority of them unmarried women under forty.^ 
This is not the result of a definite policy, although the general 
sentiment of the community probably accords with at least the 
first half of the local editorial statement in 1900 that teaching 
is '^an occupation for which women seem to have a peculiar 
fitness and a greater adaptability than men; but whether from 
their qualities of gentleness or from superior mental endow- 
ment is open to question.” Actually, however, here as at so 
many other points in the city’s life, money seems to be the 
controlling factor; more money elsewhere draws men away 
from teaching, rather than special fitness attracting women. 
Middletown pays its teachers more than it did thirty-five years 
ago,^ but even the $2,100 maximum paid to grade school princi- 
pals and high school teachers, the $3,200 paid to the high school 
principal, and the $4,900 to the Superintendent of Schools are 
hardly enough to tempt many of the abler men away from busi- 
ness in a culture in which everything hinges on money. 

One becomes a teacher by doing a certain amount of studying 
things in books. All teachers today must have graduated from 
high school and have spent at least nine months in a recognized 
teacher-training college, while at least two years more of normal 

1 Twenty-one per cent, of 273 teachers (247 academic teachers, IS prin- 
cipals, 6 supervisors, and 5 physical directors) in 1923-24 were men. Only 
two of the thirty- four teachers in 1889-90 were men. The increase in the 
proportion of men is largely accounted for by the introduction of vocational 
work and the greater use of men as principals of grade schools. 

Between 1880 and 1914 the percentage of male teachers in the United 
States was more than halved, dropping from 43 per cent, to 20 per cent. 
(Ernest C. Moore, Fijiy Years of American Education: 1867-igiVi Boston; 
Ginn, 1918, pp. 60-61.) The percentage of men teachers in Middletown at 
present corresponds closely to the national figure. 

2 Cf. Ch. VIII for rise in teachers* salaries since 1890 in relation to rise 
in cost of living. 



training or a college degree are necessary to teach in the high 
school. In 1890 the common practice was for new teachers to 
secure a license simply by passing an examination and then to 
begin by teaching in rural schools, whence they eventually 
graduated to city grade schools, and from them in turn 
moved up to the high school; today it is not uncommon for 
teachers who have had no experience in teaching, save possibly 
‘‘practice teaching” in connection with normal school work, 
to teach even in high school. For the most part, teachers in Mid- 
dletown’s schools today have more formal book training and 
less experience of dealing with children than those of a genera- 
tion ago.® One sees in the high school young people, caught in 
the cross-currents of a period of rapid change in many deep- 
lying institutional habits, being trained by teachers many of 
whom are only slightly older and less bewildered than their 
pupils. The whole situation is complicated by the fact that these 
young teachers go into teaching in many cases not primarily 
because of their ability or great personal interest in teaching; 
for very many of them teaching is just a job. The wistful re- 
mark of a high school teacher, ‘T just wasn’t brought up to do 
anything interesting. So I’m teaching !” possibly represents the 
situation with many. 

Cultural in-breeding is a dominant factor in the selection of 
teachers; for the most part, children are taught by teachers 
brought up in the samf state. Preference tends to be given to 
Middletown’s own tea^^ers’ training college and, failing that, 
to colleges in the state. A bill was even introduced into the leg- 
islature in 1924 providing that teachers’ licenses be issued only 
to graduates of public high schools in the state. Of the 156 
teachers and principals in 1923-24 who held a college or normal 
school diploma, degree, or certificate, only twenty-nine, less 

3 Of sixteen women teachers in the grades in 1889-90 of whose training 
some record could be found, ten had high school training, one had high 
school plus two years of normal training, three had high school plus six 
or twelve weeks of normal, one had a few weeks of normal but no high 
school, one had neither high school nor normal; of three high school teach- 
ers one, the principal, a man, was a graduate of the state university, and 
the other two of the high^ school. Of 268 teachers, principals, and super- 
visors in 1923-24 (excluding the five physical directors), fifty-six have 
college degrees ; eight, college diplomas ; three, college certificates ; thirty 
have normal degrees; twenty-six, normal diplomas; thirty-three, normal 
certificates; 112 have no degree, diploma, or certificate from either college 
or normal, but are all high school graduates. 


than a fifth, had received them from institutions outside the 

Two shifts in the general conditions surrounding teaching 
operate variously to lessen or to increase the handicaps of teach- 
ers selected and trained in the above fashion. On the one hand, 
class units are usually considerably smaller today; in 1923-24 
there were thirty pupils per teacher as against fifty-eight in 
1889-90.® Congestion in 1889-90 was greatest in the early 
years, some first-year classes numbering as many as eighty. 

At the same time, a second trend operates to render it unnec- 
essary for each teacher to spread herself over as much subject 
matter as formerly, but at the same time to allow her less 
contact with the individual student. From the fourth or fifth 
year on, a teacher becomes a specialized teacher of one sub- 
ject to many groups instead of teaching a single group all their 
subjects for two years as was formerly the case; by the time 
a child reaches high school he has as many teachers as he has 
subjects. This becomes significant in view of the fact that in 
a period when the home is losing some of its close control of the 
child’s activities to the school, the latter is likewise diminishing 
rather than increasing the former status of the teacher in loco 
parentis, through the teacher’s having to concentrate more and 
more upon teaching subjects rather than upon teaching children. 
This situation is being met somewhafi in the high school, as 
noted earlier, by the creation of a new t^fpe of teacher known as 
the ‘‘dean of girls” ; the freeing of g^de school principals of 
teaching responsibility operates, thei^fetically at least, to the 
same end. This growing impersonality of teacher-pupil rela- 
tionships is responsible, in part, for such observed phenomena 
as the heavy relative drop in space devoted to the faculty in 
the high school annual, noted below ; one no longer finds trib- 
utes to teachers such as those printed in 1894 : 

“The influence of her beautiful life will be felt by her pupils in 
after years, and make them stronger and better fitted for the 
realities of life.” 

few of the others, following their first degree, had received some 
sumnier school or other professional training outside the state. 

® Figures on the basis of the number of pupils enrolled. The number of 
teachers in 1923-24 is taken as 252, i.e., all teachers exclusive of principals 
and special supervisors. Principals are included in the thirty- four teachers 
of 1889-90, since they all taught; special supervisors were then a thing 



And '"one of the brightest and dearest of otir teachers . . . her 
persistent efforts have been rewarded in the love and respect which 
her pupils have for her, and her life is one which should be a 
criterion to all/' 

It seems unlikely that such appreciations could have been 
entirely perfunctory. Pupils today are apparently inclined to 
take their teachers more casually, unless the latter happen to be 
basket-ball enthusiasts or fraternity brothers or have some 
other extra-teaching hold upon them. 

Indeed, few things about education in Middletown today 
are more noteworthy than the fact that the entire community 
treats its teachers casually. These more than 250 persons to 
whom this weighty responsibility of training the young is en- 
trusted are not the wise, skilled, revered elders of the group. In 
terms of the concerns and activities that preoccupy the keenest 
interests of the city’s leaders, they are for the most part nonen- 
tities ; rarely does one run across a teacher at the weekly lunch- 
eons of the city’s business men assembled in their civic clubs ; 
nor are many of them likely to be present at the social func- 
tions over which the wives of these influential men preside. 
Middletown pays these people to whom it entrusts its children 
about what it pays a retail clerk, turns the whole business of 
running the schools over to a School Board of three business 
men appointed by the political machine, and rarely stumbles 
on the individual teacher thereafter save when a particularly 
interested mother pays a visit to the school "to find out how 
Ted is getting along.” The often bitter comments of the teach- 
ers themselves upon their lack of status and recognition in the 
ordinary give and take of local life are not needed to make an 
observer realize that in this commercial culture the "teacher” 
and "professor” do not occupy the position they did even a 
generation ago. 

Furthermore, as Middletown every year is confronted with 
an increasing number of children to be educated at public ex- 
pense and as a growing number of more highly paid occupations 
are drawing men and women from teaching, emphasis almost 
inevitably comes to be laid upon the perfection of the system 
rather than upon the personality or qualifications of the indi- 
vidual teacher. The more completely a teacher is a part of the 
accepted school system in terms of his own training, the more 



he is valued and the more salary he receives. As in so many 
other aspects of Middletown’s life, criticism of individuals or 
creakings in the system are met primarily not by changes in its 
foundations but by adding fresh stories to its superstructure. 
If teaching is poor, supervisors are employed and “critic teach- 
ers” are added; in 1890 the only person in the entire school 
system who did not teach was the superintendent, while between 
superintendent and teacher today is a galaxy of principals, 
assistant principals, supervisors of special subjects, directors 
of vocational education and hf^mt economics, deans, attendance 
officers, and clerks, who do no teaching but are concerned in 
one way or another with keeping the system going; in 1924 
the office of superintendent itself was bifurcated into a super- 
intendent of schools and a business director. Thus, in personnel 
as well as in textbooks and courses of study, strains or mal- 
adjustments in education are being met by further elaboration 
and standardization. 

Chapter XVI 

SCHOOL '"life'' 

Accompanying the formal training afforded by courses of 
study is another and informal kind of training, particularly 
during the high school years. Tfie high school, with its ath- 
letics, clubs, sororities and fraternities, dances and parties, and 
other ''extracurricular activities,"^ is a fairly complete social 
cosmos in itself, and about this city within a city the social 
life of the intermediate generation centers. Here the social 
sifting devices of their elders — money, clothes, personal at- 
tractiveness, male physical prowess, exclusive clubs, election to 
positions of leadership — are all for the first time set going with 
a population as yet largely undifferentiated save as regards their 
business class and working class parents. This informal train- 
ing is not a preparation for a vague future that must be taken 
on trust, as is the case with so much of the academic work; 
to many of the boys and girls in high school this is "the life,"" 
the thing they personally like best about going to school. 

The school is taking over more and more of the child’s wak- 
ing life. Both high school and grades have departed from the 
attitude of fifty years ago, when the Board directed: 

"Pupils shall not be permitted to remain on the school grounds 
after dismissal. The teachers shall often remind the pupils that 
the first duty when dismissed is to proceed quietly and directly 
home to render all needed assistance to their parents."" 

Today the school is becoming not a place to which children go 
from their homes for a few hours daily but a place from which 
they go home to eat and sleep.^ 

1 This condition is deplored by some as indicative of the “break-up of the 
American home.” Others welcome it as freeing the child earlier from the 
domination of parents and accustoming him to face adjustments upon the 
success of which adult behavior depends. In any event, the trend appears to 
be in the direction of an extension of the present tendency increasingly into 
the grades. 




An Index to this widening of the schooFs function appears in 
a comparison of the 1924 high school annual with the first 
annual, pid)lished thirty years before, though even this com- 
parison does not reflect the full extent of the shift since 1890, 
for innovations had been so numerous in the years just preced- 
ing 1894 as to dwarf the extent of the 1890-1924 contrast. 
Next in importance to the pictures of the senior class and other 
class data in the earlier book, as measured by the percentage of 
space occupied, were the pages devoted to the faculty and the 
courses taught by them, while in the current book athletics 
shares the position of honor with the class data, and a faculty 
twelve times as large occupies relatively only half as much 
space. Interest in small selective group ^'activities’^ has increased 
at the expense of the earlier total class activities.^ But such a 
numerical comparison can only faintly suggest the difference 
in tone of the two books. The description of academic work 
in the early annual beginning, "Among the various changes 
that have l^n effected in grade work are ...” and ending, 
"regular monthly teachers’ meetings have been inaugurated,” 
seems as foreign to the present high school as does the early 
class motto "Deo Duce”; equally far from 1890 is the present 
dedication, "To the Bearcats,” 

This whole spontaneous life of the intermediate generation 
that clusters about the formal nucleus of school studies becomes 
focused, articulate, and even rendered important in the eyes 
of adults through the medium of the school athletic teams — 
the "Bearcats.” ^ The business man may "lay down the law” to 
his adolescent son or daughter at home and patronize their 
friends, but in the basket-ball grandstand he is if anything a 
little less important than these youngsters of his who actually 
mingle daily with those five boys who wear the colors of 

2 The following shows the percentage of the pages of the annual occupied 
by the chief items in 1894 and 1924 the earlier year being in each case given 
first : Class data— 39 per cent., 19 per cent ; faculty— 16 per cent., 8 per cent, 
(brief biographies and pictures in 1894 list of names only and picture of 
principal in 1924) ; athletics — 5 per cent, 19 per cent. ; courses of study — 6 
per cent., 0.0 per cent. ; class poems — 13 per cent, 0.0 per cent. ; activities 
other ^an athletics — 5 per cent, (one literary society), 13 per cent, (thir- 
tep kinds of clubs) ; jokes — 5 per cent, 17 per cent. ; advertisements and 
miscellaneous — ii per cent., 24 per cent 

2 In the elementary grades athletics are still a minor interest, though a 
school baseball and basket-ball league have been formed of recent years and 
the pressure of inter-school leagues and games is being felt increasingly. 



“Magic Middletown.” There were no high school teams in 
1890. Today, during the height of the basket-ball season when 
all the cities and towns of the state are fighting for the state 
championship amidst the delirious backing of the rival citizens, 
the dominance of this sport is as all-pervasive as football in a 
college like Dartmouth or Princeton the week of the “big 
game.” At other times dances, dramatics, and other interests 
may bulk larger, but it is the “Bearcats,” particularly the 
basket-ball team, that dominate the life of the school. Says the 
prologue to the high school annual : 

“The Bearcat spirit has permeated our high school in the last 
few years and pushed it into the prominence that it now holds. 
The ’24 Magician has endeavored to catch, reflect and record this 
spirit because it has been so evident this year. We hope that after 
you have glanced at this book for the first time, this spirit will be 
evident to you. 

“However, most of all, we hope that in perhaps twenty years, 
if you become tired of this old world, you will pick up this book 
and it will restore to you the spirit, pep, and enthusiasm of the 
old ‘Bearcat Days’ and will inspire in you better things.” 

Every issue of the high school weekly bears proudly the fol- 
lowing “Platform” : 

“i. To support live school organizations. 

“2. To recognize worth-while individual student achievements. 

“3'. Above all to foster the real ‘Bearcat’ spirit in all of Cen- 
tral High School.” 

Curricular and social interests tend to conform. Friday nights 
throughout the season are preempted for games ; the Mothers’ 
Council, recognizing that every Saturday night had its own 
social event, urged that other dances be held on Friday nights 
instead of school nights, but every request was met with the 
rejoinder that “Friday is basket-ball night.” 

This activity, so enthusiastically supported, is largely vicari- 
ous. The press complains that only about forty boys are prom- 
inent enough in athletics to win varsity sweaters. In the case 
of the girls it is almost 100 per cent, vicarious. Girls play some 
informal basket-ball and there is a Girls’ Athletic Club which 

* Cf. Ch. XXVIII for the discussion of basket-ball as a center of civic 



has a monogram and social meetings. But the interest of the 
girls in athletics is an interest in the activities of the young 

males. “My daughter plans to go to the University of 

said one mother, “because she says, ‘Mother, I just couldn't 
go to a college whose athletics I couldn’t be proud of ” The 
highest honor a senior boy can have is captaincy of the football 
or basket-ball team, although, as one senior girl explained, 
^‘Every member is almost as much admired.” 

Less spectacular than athletics but bulking even larger in time 
demands is the network of organizations that serve to break the 
nearly two thousand individuals composing the high school 
microcosm into the more intimate groups human beings de- 
mand. These groups are mainly of three kinds : the purely so- 
cial clubs, in the main a stepping down of the social system of 
adults; a long distance behind in point of prestige, clubs formed 
around curriculum activities; and, even farther behind, a few 
groups sponsored by the religious systems of the adults. 

In 1894 the high school boasted one club, the “Turemethian 
Literary Society.” According to the early school yearbook : 

“The Turemethian Society makes every individual feel that 
practically he is free to choose between good and evil ; that he is 
not a mere straw thrown upon the water to mark the direction of 
the current, but that he has within himself the power of a strong 
swimmer and is capable of striking out for himself, of buffeting 
the waves, and directing, to a certain extent, his own independent 
course. Socrates said, ‘Let him who would move the world move 
first himself.' ... A paper called The Zetetic is prepared and 
read at each meeting- . . . Debates have created ... a friendly 
rivalry. . . . Another very interesting feature of the Turemeth- 
ian Society is the lectures delivered to us. . . . All of these lec- 
tures help to make our High School one of the first of its kind in 
the land. The Turemethian Society has slowly progressed in the 
last year. What the future has in store for it we can not tell, 
but must say as Mary Riley Smith said, ‘God’s plans, like lilies 
pure and white, unfold; we must not tear the close-shut leaves 
apart; time will reveal the calyxes of gold.’ ” 

Six years later, at the turn of the century, clubs had increased 
to the point of arousing protest in a press editorial entitled 
“Barriers to Intellectual Progress.” Today clubs and other ex- 
tocurricular activities are more numerous than ever. Not only 
is the camel’s head inside the tent but his hump as well ; the 


21 ^ 

first period of the school day, often running' over into the next 
hour, has recently, at the request of the Mothers" Council, been 
set aside as a ‘'convocation hour’" dedicated to club and com- 
mittee meetings. 

The backbone of the purely social clubs is the series of unoffi- 
cial branches of former high school fraternities and sororities; 
Middletown boasts four Alpha chapters. For a number of years 
a state law has banned these high school organizations, but the 
interest of active graduate chapters keeps them alive. The high 
school clubs have harmless names such as the Glendale Club; 
a boy is given a long, impressive initiation into his club but is 
not nominally a member of the fraternity of which his club is 
the undergraduate section until after he graduates, when it is 
said that by the uttering of a few hitherto unspoken words he 
comes into his heritage. Under this ambiguous status dances 
have been given with the club name on the front of the program 
and the fraternity name on the back. Two girls’ clubs and two 
boys’ clubs which every one wants to make are the leaders. 
Trailing down from them are a long list of lesser clubs. Infor- 
mal meetings are usually in homes of members but the formal 
fall, spring, and Christmas functions are always elaborate hotel 

Extracurricular clubs have canons not dictated by academic 
standards of the world of teachers and textbooks. Since the 
adult world upon which the world of this intermediate genera- 
tion is modeled tends to be dominated primarily by getting a liv- 
ing and “getting on” socially rather than by learning and “the 
things of the mind,” the bifurcation of high school life is not 

“When do you study?” some one asked a clever high school 
Senior who had just finished recounting her week of club meet- 
ings, committee meetings, and dances, ending with three parties 
the night before. “Oh, in civics I know more or less about poli- 
tics, so it’s easy to talk and I don’t have to study that. In English 
we’re reading plays and I can just look at the end of the play 
and know about that. Typewriting and chemistry I don’t have to 
study outside anyway. Virgil is worst, but I’ve stuck out Latin four 

years for the Virgil banquet ; I just sit next to and get it 

from her. Mother jumps on me for never studying, but I get A’s 
all the time, so she can’t say anything.” 

® Cf. Ch. XIX for fuller discussion of juvenile social life in Middletown. 



The relative status of academic excellence and other qualities is 
fairly revealed in the candid rejoinder of one of the keenest and 
most popular girls in the school to the question, “What makes a 
girl eligible for a leading high school club 

“The chief thing is if the boys like you and you can get them 
for the dances/" she replied. “Then, if your mother belongs to a 
graduate chapter that’s pretty sure to get you in. Good looks 
and clothes don’t necessarily get you in, and being good in your 
studies doesn’t necessarily keep you out unless you’re a 'grind.’ 
Same way with the boys — ^the big thing there is being on the 
basket-ball or football team. A fellow who’s just a good student 
rates pretty low. Being good-looking, a good dancer, and your 
family owning a car all help,” 

The clubs allied to curricular activities today include the 
Dramatic Club — splays by sophomore, junior, and senior classes 
in a single spring have replaced the “programs of recitations, se- 
lections, declamations, and essays” of the old days ; the Daubers, 
meeting weekly in school hours to sketch and in evening meet- 
ings with graduate members for special talks on art; the 
Science Club with its weekly talks by members and occa^onal 
lectures by well-known scientists; the Pickwick Club, open to 
members of English classes, meeting weekly for book reviews 
and one-act plays, with occasional social meetings ; the Penman- 
ship Club; and the Virgil Club, carrying with it some social 
prestige. Interest in the work of these clubs Is keen among some 
students. All have their “pledges,” making their rituals con- 
form roughly to those of the more popular fraternities and 

On the periphery of this high school activity are the church 
and Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A. clubs. All these organizations 
frankly admit that the fifteen to twenty-one-year person is their 
hardest problem. The Hi-Y club appears to be most successful. 
The Y.M.C.A. controls the extracurricular activities of the 
grade school boys more than any other single agency, but it 
maintains itself with only moderate success in the form of this 
Hi-Y Club among the older boys. A Hi-Y medal is awarded 
each commencement to the boy in the graduating class who 
shows the best all-round record, both in point of scholarship 
and of character. The Y.W.C.A. likewise maintains clubs in the 
grades but has rough sledding when it comes to the busy, pop- 



ular, influential group in high school. According to one repre- 
sentative senior girl : 

“High School girls pay little attention to the Y.W. and the Girl 
Reserves. The boys go to the Y.M. and Hi-Y club because it has 
a supper meeting once a month, and that is one excuse for get- 
ting away from home evenings. There aren’t any supper meet- 
ings for the girls at the Y.W. It’s not much good to belong to a 
Y.W. club ; any one can belong to them.” 

All manner of other clubs, such as the Hiking Club and the 
Boys" and Girls" Booster Club and the Boys’ and Girls’ Pep 
Club hover at the fringes or even occasionally take the center of 
the stage. Says the school paper : 

“Pep Clubs are being organized in Central High School with a 
motive that wins recognition. Before, there has been a Pep Club 
in school, but this year we are more than fortunate in having two. 
Their business-like start this year predicts a good future. Let’s 
support them!” 

Pep week during the basket-ball season, engineered by these 
Pep Clubs, included: 

Monday: Speakers in each of the four assemblies. . . . 

^'Tuesday: Poster Day. 

^^Wednesday : Reverend Mr. in chapel. Booster pins and 

pep tags. 

'‘Thursday: Practice on yells and songs. 

"Friday: Final Chapel. Mr. speaks. Yells and songs. 

“Pep chapel ® for all students will be held in the auditorium the 

ninth period. Professor and his noisy cohorts will furnish 

the music for the occasion. Immediately following the chapel the 
students will parade through the business district.” 

With the growth of smaller competitive groups, class organi- 
zation has also increased, reaching a crescendo of importance in 
the junior and senior years. In a community with such a strong 
political tradition it is not surprising that there should be an 
elaborate ritual in connection with the election of senior and 
other class officers. The senior officers are nominated early in 
the school year, after much wire-pulling by all parties. ^‘The 
diplomatic agents of the candidates have been working for 

®The evolution of the chapel to anything from a “Pep chapel” to a class 
rally is an interesting example of the change of custom while the label 



weeks on this election/’ commented the school paper. The elec- 
tion comes a week later so as to allow plenty of electioneering; 
the evening before election an ‘'enthusiasm dinner” is held in 
the school cafeteria at which nominees and their “campaign 
managers” vie with each other in distributing attractive favors 
(menus, printed paper napkins, and so on), and each candi- 
date states his platform. 

Amid the round of athletics, clubs, committees, and class 
meetings there is always some contest or other to compete for 
the time of the ‘pupils. Principals complain that hardly a week 
passes that they do not have to take time from class work in 
preparation for a contest, the special concern of some organi- 
zation. In 1923-24 these included art and music memory con- 
tests, better speech and commercial department contests, a Latin 
contest, a contest on the constitution, essays on meat eating, 
tobacco, poster making, home lighting, and highways. 

In this bustle of activity young Middletown swims along in 
a world as real and perhaps even more zestful than that in which 
its parents move. Small wonder that a local paper comments 
editorially, “It Is a revelation to old-timers to learn that a gen- 
uine boy of the most boyish type nowadays likes to go to 
school/’ “Oh, yes, they have a much better time,” rejoined the 
energetic father of a high school boy to a question asked infor- 
mally of a tableful of men at a Kiwanis luncheon as to whether 
boys really have a better time in school than they did thirty-five 
years ago or whether they simply have more things. “No doubt 
about it!” added another. “When I graduated early in the 
nineties there weren’t many boys — only two in our class, and 
a dozen girls. All our studies seemed very far away from real 
life, but today — they’ve got shop work and athletics, and it’s 
all nearer what a boy’s interested in.” 

The relative disregard of most people in Middletown for 
teachers and for the content of books, on the one hand, and the 
exalted position of the social and athletic activities of the 
schools, on the other, offer an interesting commentary on Mid- 
dletown’s attitude toward education. And yet Middletown 
places large faith in going to school. The heated opposition to 
compulsory education in the nineties ^ has virtually disappeared ; 

^^The following’,^ from editorials in the leading daily in 1891, reflect the 
virulence with which compulsory education was fought by many, and inci- 



only three of the 124 working class families interviewed voiced 
even the mildest impatience at it. Parents insist upon more and 
more education as part of their children’s birthright; editors 
and lecturers point to education as a solution for every kind of 
social ill ; the local press proclaims, “Public Schools of [Middle- 
town] Are the City’s Pride” ; woman’s club papers speak of the 
home, the church, and the school as the “foundations” of Mid- 
dletown’s culture. Education is a faith, a religion, to Middle- 
town. And yet when one looks more closely at this dominant 
belief in the magic of formal schooling, it appears that it is not 
what actually goes on in the schoolroom that these many voices 
laud. Literacy, yes, they want their children to be able to “read 
the newspapers, write a letter, and perform the ordinary opera- 
tions of arithmetic,” but, beyond that, many of them are little 
interested in what the schools teach. This thing, education, ap- 
pears to be desired frequently not for its specific content but as 
a symbol — by the working class as an open sesame that will 

dentally exhibit a pattern of opposition to social change that bobs up from 
time to time today as innovations appear : 

“Taxpayers of this county are upset by the state and county teachers’ reso- 
lutions favoring compulsory^ education. . . . The teachers in our schools 
are not well versed in political economy. The most of them are young, 
and have had little time to study anything other than textbooks and their 
reports and programs. The idea of compulsion is detestable to the average 
American citizen. Men do not become good under compulsion. Two classes 
of men are clamoring for compulsory education: those who are depending 
upon school work for a living and for place and power, and those who are 
afraid of the Catholic Church. . . . The school system has not done what 
was expected of it. Immorality and crime are actually on the increase. , . . 
The states that have the greatest percentage of illiteracy have the smallest 
percentage of crime. . . . Compulsory education has failed wherever tried 
on American soil.” 

“The danger to the country today is through too many educated scoun- 
drels. Boys and girls learn to cheat and defraud in copying papers for grad- 
uation essays. ... A law compelling a child seven years of age to sit in a 
poorly ventilated school room and inhale the nauseous exhalations from 
the bodies of his mates^ for six hours a day for three or four months at a 
time, is a wicked and inhuman law. , . . Children forced into schools are 
morally tainted — and neutralize the virtues of well-bred children. It is 
a great mistake for the state to undertake to carry forward the evolution 
of the race from such bad material when there is so much good material 
at hand. Every movement that tends to relieve the father or mother of the 
moral responsibility of developing, training and directing the moral and 
intellectual forces of their own children, tends to reduce marriage and the 
home to a mere institution for the propagation of our^ species.” 

The press of 1900 noted that "the problem of securing boy labor is still 
worrying [state] manufacturers. The truancy law, they say, is detri- 
mental to their business.”* 



mysterioBsIy admit their children to a world closed to them, and 
by the business class as a heavily sanctioned aid in getting on 
further economically or socially in the world. 

Rarely does one hear a talk addressed to school children by a 
Middletown citizen that does not contain in some form the idea, 
^‘Of course, you won’t remember much of the history or other 
things they teach you here. Why, I haven’t thought of Latin or 
algebra in thirty years ! But . . And here the speaker goes 
on to enumerate what are to his mind the enduring values of 
education which every child should seize as his great opportu- 
nity: “habits of industry,” “friendships formed,” “the great 
ide^s of our nation.” Almost never is the essential of educa- 
tion defined in terms of the subjects taught in the class-room. 
One member of Rotary spoke with pitying sympathy of his 
son who “even brought along a history book to read on the 
train when he came home for his Christmas vacation — ^the poor 
overworked kid !” 

Furthermore, in Middletown^s traditional philosophy it is not 
primarily learning, or even intelligence, as much as character 
and good will which are exalted. Says Edgar Guest, whose daily 
message in Middletown’s leading paper is widely read and much 

“God won’t ask you if you were clever, 

For I think he’ll little care, 

When your toil is done forever 
He may question : ‘Were you square ? ” 

^Wou know the smarter the man the more dissatisfied he is,” 
says Will Rogers in a Middletown paper, “so cheer up, let us 
be happy in our ignorance.” “I wanted my son to go to a differ- 
ent school in the East,” said a business class mother, “because 
it’s more cultured. But then I think you can have too much cul- 
ture. It’s all right if you’re living in the East — or even in Cali- 
fornia — but it unfits you for living in the Middle West.” ® 
Every one lauds education in general, but relatively few people 
in Middletown seem to be sure just how they have ever used 
their own education beyond such commonplaces as the three 
R’s and an occasional odd fact, or to value greatly its specific 
outcome in others. 

^ Cf. Ch. XXIV ^ for discussion of this same emphasis upon character 
racier tlian ability in the choosing of public officials. 



Some clew to these anomalies of the universal lauding of edu- 
<£ation but the disparagement of many of the particular things 
taught, and of the universal praise of the schools but the almost 
equally general apathy towards the people entrusted with the 
teaching, may be found in the disparity that exists at many 
points between the daily activities of Middletown adults and 
the things taught in the schools. Square root, algebra, French, 
the battles of the Civil War, the presidents of the United States 
before Grover Cleveland, the boundaries of the state of Ari- 
zona, whether Rangoon is on the Yangtze or Ganges or neither, 
the nature or location of the Japan Current, the ability to write 
compositions or to use semicolons, sonnets, free verse, and the 
Victorian novel — ^all these and many other things that consti- 
tute the core of education simply do not operate in life as Mid- 
dletown adults live it. And yet, the world says education is im- 
portant; and certainly educated men seem to have something 
that brings them to the top — ^just look at the way the college 
boys walked oif with the commissions during the war. The up- 
shot is, with Middletown reasoning thus, that a phenomenon 
common in human culture has appeared : a value divorced from 
current, tangible existence in the world all about men and 
largely without commerce with these concrete existential reali- 
ties has become an ideal to which independent existence is at- 
tributed. Hence the anomaly of Middletown’s regard for the 
symbol of education and its disregard for the concrete proced- 
ure of the school-room. 

But the pressure and accidents of local life are prompting 
Middletown to lay hands upon its schools at certain points, as 
we have observed, and to use them instrumentally to foster 
patriotism, teach hand skills, and serve its needs in other ways. 
This change, again characteristically, is taking place not so 
much through the direct challenging of the old as through the 
setting up of new alternate procedures, e.g., the adding to the 
traditional high school, offering only a Latin and an English 
course in 1890, of ten complete alternate courses ranging all 
the way from shorthand to home economics and mechanical 
drafting. The indications seem to be that the optional newcom- 
ers may in time displace more and more of the traditional edu- 
cation and thus the training given the young will approach more 
nearly the methodically practical concerns of the group. 

Lest this trend of education overtaking the life of Middle- 



town appear too simple, however, it should be borne in mind 
that even while Middletown prides itself on its "'up-to-date^' 
schools with their vocational training, the local institutional life 
is creating fresh strains and maladjustments heretofore un- 
known: the city boasts of the fact that only 2.5 per cent, of its 
population ten years, of age or older cannot read and write, and 
meanwhile the massed weight of advertising and professional 
publicity are creating, as pointed out above, new forms of social 
illiteracy, and the invention of the motion picture is introducing 
the city's population, young and old, week after week, into 
types of vivid experience which they come to take for granted 
as parts of their lives, yet have no training to handle. Another 
type of social illiteracy is being bred by the stifling of self- 
appraisal and self-criticism under the heavily diffused habit of 
local solidarity in which the schools cooperate. An organized, 
professional type of city-boosting, even more forceful than the 
largely spontaneous, amateur enthusiasm of the gas boom days, 
has grown up in the shelter of national propaganda during the 
war. Fostered particularly by the civic clubs, backed by the 
Chamber of Commerce and business interests, as noted else- 
where, it insists that the city must be kept to the fore and its 
shortcomings blanketed imder the din of local boosting — or new 
business will not come to town. The result of this is the muz- 
zling of self-criticism by hurling the term "knocker" at the head 
of a critic and the drowning of incipient social problems under 
a public mood of everything being "fine and dandy." Thus, 
while education slowly pushes its tents closer to the practical 
concerns of the local life, the latter are forever striking camp 
and removing deeper into the forest 


Chapter XVII 


Some of Middletown’s waking hours escape the routiniza- 
tion of getting a living, home-making, receiving training in 
school, or carrying on religious or communal practices ; in con- 
trast to more strictly marshaled pursuits, such hours are called 
'‘leisure time,” and this precious time, quite characteristically in 
a pecuniary society, is "spent.” 

The manner of spending leisure is perforce conditioned by 
the physical environment of the city and by the rest of its cul- 
ture. Its location in the flat ex-prairie known as the Com Belt 
precludes such variety of activity as cities adjacent to moun- 
tains, lakes, or forests know ; Middletown, according to a local 
editorial, "is unfortunate in not having many natural beauty 
spots.” There is rolling country to the south, but no‘ real hills 
nearer than one hundred miles. Equally distant to the north 
are "the lakes,” large prairie ponds scattered through flat farm- 
ing country. A small river wanders through Middletown, and in 
i8go when timber still stood on its banks, White River was a 
pleasant stream for picnics, fishing, and boating, but it has 
shmnk today to a creek discolored by industrial chemicals and 
malodorous with the city’s sewage. The local chapter of the 
Isaak Walton League aspires to "Make White River white.” 
"This Corn Belt ... is not a land to thrill one who loves hills, 
wild landscape, mountain panorama, waterfalls, babbling 
brooks, and nature undisturbed. In this flat land of food crops 
and murky streams rich with silt, man must find thrills in other 
things, perhaps in travel, print, radio, or movie.” ^ 

Middletown people today enjoy a greater variety of these 
alternate other things than their parents knew a generation ago. 
The lessening of the number of hours spent daily in getting a 
living and in home-making and the almost universal habit of 
the Saturday half-holiday combine with these new possibilities 

1 Smith, op, cit, pp. 298-9. 



for spending an extra hour to make leisure a more generally ex- 
pected part of every day rather than a more sporadic, semi-oc- 
casional event. The characteristic leisure-time pursuits of the 
city tend to be things done with others rather than by individ- 
uals alone ; ^ and except for the young, particularly the young 
males, they are largely passive, i.e., looking at or listening to 
something or talking or playing cards or riding in an auto ; the 
leisure of virtually all women and of most of the men over 
thirty is mainly spent sitting down. Its more striking aspects 
relate to the coming of inventions, the automobile, the 
movies, the radio, that have swept through the community since 
1890, dragging the life of the city in their wake. Yet these 
r^wer forms of leisure must be viewed against an underlying 
groundwork of folk-play and folk-talk that makes up a rela- 
tively I^s changing human tradition. 

Middletown has always delighted in talk. The operation of 
its business as well as of many of its professional institutions 
depends upon talk ; honored among those who get its living are 
those puissant in talking. The axis upon which the training of 
its children turns is teaching them to use language according to 
the rules of the group and to understand the talk of others, 
whether spoken or written. Talking is the chief feature of its 
religious services. Much of its leisure time it spends in talking 
or listening to talk. 

The habit of thinking no occasion, from an ice cream social 
to the burial of the dead, complete without a speech, is nearly 
as strong as in the nineties when, on a characteristic occasion, it 
took no less than eight speakers to dedicate a public building : 

'The evening^s exercises were begun by placing Rev. O. M. 

T in the chair. Rev G then delivered a very fine prayer 

and was followed by the regular address of the evening by Mr. 

T He was succeeded by Mr. J. W. R . . . . Then came 

Glenn M , Charley K Charley M and George 

M . Mrs. P then delivered a short address, after which 

the meeting adjourned.” 

Tt^ dedication of two new buildings at the local college In 1925 
iiicIudM in its morning, afternoon, and evening programs six 
Toci^ ‘^addresses” and five other ‘"talks.” Indeed, as the author 

*Cf. Ch. XIX for a discussion of the basis of person-to-person associa- 
ticm arotmd which these activities are built 



of The American Commonwealth pointed out forty years ago, 
'^there is scarcely an occasion in life which brings forty or fifty 
people together on which a prominent citizen or a stranger . • . 
is not called upon 'to offer a few remarks/ 

And today, as in the nineties, the oratory of the speaker is 
nearly, if not quite, as important as the subject of his speech. 
"No matter what it’s about, there’s nothing I like better than 
a real good speech,” remarked a leading citizen in 1924. In 1890 
it was not necessary to announce the subject of a "lecture” to 

draw a crowd ; "Rev. C. R. Bacon of W will deliver a free 

lecture at the Methodist Church Wednesday night. . . . Every- 
body invited” ran a characteristic announcement in the 1890 
press. Another minister was invited to repeat his lecture on 
"Sunshine.” "The lecture has been delivered here before,” 
said the press notice, "and yet so well pleased was the audience 
that the church was well filled to hear the eminent divine a sec- 
ond time.” ® The relative unimportance of lecture subjects today 
appears in the civic clubs which are kept alive week after week 
by an endless succession of speeches on almost every subject 
from Gandhi to the manufacture of a local brand of gas burn- 
ers for coffee roasters. One of the most popular spe^ers fre- 
quently paid by Middletown to talk to it is a woman travel lec- 
turer described by the local press as one who "delights in super- 
latives and whose fluency of expression has won for her an en- 
thusiastic group of admirers in this city.” "No subject is pre- 
scribed for him,’^ continues Lord Bryce in the passage cited 
above ; ". . . he is simply put on his legs to talk upon an3rthing 
in heaven or earth which may rise to his mind.” 

If the subject of the address is one with which the hearers 
are unfamiliar or upon which they have no fixed views, they 
frequently adopt bodily not only the speaker’s opinion but its 

^ ‘'Judge of Rushville will speak on the political issues of the day 

at the opera house Saturday at 2 p.m./* read the vague announcement of 
yet another lecture. “The judge is an able and eloquent speaker and you 
will be well entertained if you hear him.'^ 

Nothing is more characteristic of the early interest in speeches than the 
commencement exercises of the high school in 1890. Every graduate wrote 
and delivered an essay and people discussed certain essays for years after- 
wards. On the great night “everyboc^ in town^' gathered to hear these 
talks on such sub^jects as “We Sinais Climb and Know It Not”; “Whence, 
What, and Whither”; “Timon of Athens”; “Pandora's Box”; “Flowers,” 
discussed as “aids in making life pleasant for rich and poor” ; and a new type 
of “Germs” filling the body, whose “action on mind and heart causes the 
impulses for good and bad” 



•smglrfing of emotion. It is not uncommon to hear a final judg- 
ment on “the Philippine problem,” “economic fundamentals,” 
“the cause of cancer,” or “the future of the white race,” deliv- 
ered with the preamble, “Well, I heard say at Chautauqua 

[or at Rotary] two years ago. . . * Heckling is unknown ; 

people think with the speaker; rarely do they challenge his 

Changes are, however, apparent in this complex of speech 
habits. Speeches are getting shorter; the long, general public 
lecture bringing its “message” is disappearing as a form of en- 
tertainment. At the Farmers and Knights of Labor picnic in 
1890, the feature of the afternoon was “an address lasting two 
hours” to “a great crowd.” This sort of thing would not draw 
a crowd today. “A large and cultured audience” no longer 
“crowds the Opera House” to hear “a polished gentleman of 
pleasant presence and happy manner, thoroughly at ease before 
an audience,” deliver a lecture at once “eloquent and humorous, 
logical, and pathetic” on the subject of “Nicknames of Promi- 
nent Americans,” “Milton as an Educator,” or “The Uses of 
Ugliness.” The humorous lecture, so popular in 1890 when the 
great Riley-Nye combination rocked the Middletowns of 
America, has ^most disappeared today. Likewise have all but 
vanished the heavy crop of moral and religious lectures by visit- 
ing ministers and denominational college presidents on “That 
Boy,” “Strange Things and Funny People,” “Backbone,” “The 

^ One such popular speaker told Rotarians : “My friends, weVe been 
asleep as a nation! But we are waking up. We always have waked up in 
time. WeVe been in just as bad holes as any of the nations of Europe, but 
there is always this difference, we always wake in time. , . . That’s a 
characteristic of us Anglo-Saxons. Babylonia went into a hole — ^and stayed 
there. Rome went down — ^and never came up. Greece — swept away. Spain 
went down, and we don’t see her getting out But^we somehow always do 
and always will 1” And the Rotary Club cheered him to the echo and went 
home to bring its wives to his evening lecture, the school authorities send- 
ing special word for all teachers to turn out At the evening lecture, speak- 
ing on “The Eagle and the Oyster,” the speaker lauded the American 
business individualist as the eagle and decried the radical and socialist as 
the “colony-hugging non-individualist” According to an enthusiastic busi- 
ness class citizen, ‘Tie showed how some things we don’t think much 
about are really socialism creeping in. He said that all these attempts to 
r^Eulate wages and hours are a mistake — ^getting away from the law of sup- 
ply and demand. It is just the sort of sound logic that puts you back on 
yomr feet again!** 

^The prominence of oratory as well as this docility of the audience is 
prpb^ly not unrelated to the authority of the evangelicm Protestant preach- 

trat^tion in the community. 



Trials of Jesus/’ The secularization of lectures and lecturers is 
marked and includes the increasing supplanting of such lectures 
as the above by short talks to club groups, more and more of 
them talks on specific subjects to specialized groups such as the 
Advertising Club, Poultry Raisers, Bar Association, and Medi- 
cal Association. The one-time popular money-raising device of 
Sunday School classes and Young People’s Societies of spon- 
soring a public lecture or winter lyceum is almost unknown 
today.® The lecture at which an admission fee is charged is in 
general a losing proposition in these days of radio and movies. 
The teachers have abandoned their effort to conduct a winter 
lyceum, and the lyceum conducted by the Ministerial Associa- 
tion, after strenuous city-wide efforts to drum up audiences, 
lost $6.00 on a course of five lectures in 1923 and made $i 5.00 
in 1924. The local Chautauqua, lasting less than a week, is 
rapidly ceasing to be popular with the business group and 
achieves only a precarious support, likewise after hard pushing 
by the churches. A cleavage between business and working 
class groups is apparent in the greater tendency of the latter to 
support the earlier type of general discourse. 

Among the activities tending to displace listening to talk is 
another form of this complex of speech habits, the reading of 
printed matter. Most of Middletown’s reading matter originates 
elsewhere.'^ Through the development of devices for producing 
and distributing this material, the city now has access to a range 
and variety of reading matter unknown to its parents.® Book 

®Only one in six of the public lectures in Middletown during 1924 was 
delivered in a church auditorium, as against more than half in 18^. This 
is in part due to the development of available auditoriums outside of 
churches, but it carries with it the^ incidental loss by the religious agencies 
of their former close place-association with this phase of group activity. 

7 See Ch. XXVII for discussion of newspapers, which are, however, only 
in part written in Middletown. 

® “In 1887 typesetting was essentially the same art as in the sixteenth 
century. Since 1890 machine composition has been rapidly supplanting type- 
setting by hand. The average rate of composition on the linotype is esti- 
mated ... at between 4,000 and 5,000 ems per hour. The rate of hand 
composition does not exceed 1,000 ems per hour on the average.” George 
E. Barnett, “The Introduction of the Linotype” (Yale Review, November, 
1904). The first linotype machine was introduced into Middletown in the 
late nineties. 

Book production in the United States has virtually doubled in the last 
generation, increasing from 4,559 in 1890 to 8,863 1923. (See the files of 

The Publishers* Weekly,) 



reading in Middletown today means overwhelmingly, if we ex- 
clude school-books and Bibles, the reading of public library 
books.® Over 40,000 volumes are available in the library, 
roughly fifteen volumes for every one to be had in the early 
nineties. Middletown drew out approximately 6,500 public 
library books for each thousand of its population during 1924, 
as against 850 for each thousand of population during 1890. 
Four hundred and fifty-eight persons in each 1,000 were library 
card-holders in 1923, whereas even as late as 1910 only 199 
people in each 1,000 had cards.^® 

Tbe buying of current books is almost entirely confined to a 
limited number of the business class. The rest of the population 
buy few; books, chiefly religious books, children’s books, and 
Christmas gifts, in the order indicated. Only twenty-four 
housewives out of the 100 working class families from whom 
family expenditures were secured reported expenditures for 
books other than school-books by members of their families 
during the past twelve months. The totals for the year ranged 
from $0.50 to $52.50; twelve of the twenty-four had each spent 
less than $5.00, six between $5.00 and $10.00, and six $10.00 
or more.^^ 

® The religious organizations of the city, many of which maintained small 
separate libraries in 1890 which are said to have been a boon, have for 
the most part ceased to perform this service, though free Sunday School 
papers are the rule today. On the other hand, the public library has entered 
the schools of the city with sixty libraries and maintains a book truck carry- 
ing^ books to the outlpng sections. Seven full-time librarians and a part-time 
assistant have displaced the single untrained librarian who received $45.00 
a month for conducting the public library tucked away in upstairs rooms 
in 1890. 

Figures on card-holders in 1890 are not available. Such figures as these 
must be used carefully. Any literate resident can obtain a card today by 
merely asking for one, without references or delay of any kind, whereas 
cards were issued in 1890 only to those ten years of age and over and 
after more red tape than today. Branch deposits in school buildings, the use 
of the book truck, and the "‘supplementary reading’' required of children, 
particularly in the high school, tend to diffuse the card-holding habit. The 
mtmber of books withdrawn is influenced by the fact that more books may 
be taken out on a single card today, thereby allowing the borrower to take 
more books home and read the one that turns out to be most interesting. 
There is no way of estimating the circulation of Sunday School library 
bodes a generation aga 

3 ^ 5 . The following books were bought by these twenty-four families, the 
piprK^ases of each family being set off by semicolons: Lives of Great 
Men smd University Encyclopcedia (total $5.00); a Bible for daughter; a 
$5.90 book on Sunday School work; a Bible and, for little son, ABC 
Ibc^ and Bible stories ; a fifty-cent History of the Methodist Church; 



Even more marked than the greater availability of books is 
the increase in the number of weekly or monthly periodicals 
since the days of ^'The Pansy for Sunday and weekday read- 
ing’’ and ‘‘The Household sent free to every newly-married 
couple upon receipt of ten cents in stamps/’ Today the Middle- 
town library offers 225 periodicals as against nineteen periodi- 
cals in 1890. Heavy, likewise, has been the increase in the num- 
ber of magazines coming into Middletown homes/^ Into the 
9,200 homes of the city, there came in 1923, at a rough esti- 
mate, 20,000 copies of each issue of commercially published 
weekly and monthly periodicals, excluding denominational 
church papers, Sunday School papers distributed free weekly to 
most of the 6-7,000 attending Sunday School, and lodge 
and civic club magazines.^^ Forty-seven of the 122 working 
class families and one of the thirty-nine business class families 
giving information on this point subscribe to or purchase regu- 
larly no periodical; thirty-seven of the former and four of the 
latter subscribe to or purchase regularly only one or two peri- 
odicals ; and thirty-eight (three in ten) of the workers’ families 
and thirty-four (nine in ten) of this business group take three 

Fox’s Book of Martyrs, Hurlburt’s Story of the Bible; technical books, 
ten-cent little leather library books for the children ; a family doctor book ; 
a New Testament and Four Thousand Questions and Answers on the Bible; 
two Bibles, and five or six Christmas books; a set of the World's Wonder 
Books ($57.00) ; Williams’ Tinsmith's Helper and Pattern Book ($3,00 — ^a 
book for the husband’s trade) ; Bible stories ; family doctor books ; re- 
ligious books ($14.00) ; a Bible with encyclopaedia and concordance ($7.00) 
and a Prayer Book; boys’ books for Christmas; the set of books studied 
by the Delphian Chapter of local club women, though the wife was not a 
member, and also some sociology books in connection with her club work; 
a Bible and a pamphlet; story books at Christmas time; Human Interest 
Library ($29.00, five volumes) ; Beautiful Story of the Bible; story books at 
Christmas time; Human Interest Library. 

Data were not secured on the book purchases of the business group. 

Of a given issue of the Literary Digest 939 copies reafched Middletown 
in 1923, as over against thirty-one in 1900. Three hundred and fifty- 
five copies of the National Geographic went into^ local hornes ^ in 1923 
as against twenty-five in 1910. Both tne number of different periodicals and 
their efficient distribution have increased notably. As many as seventy dif- 
ferent current periodicals may be seen displayed in a single drug store win- 
dow in Middletown today. 

There were no national circulations in 1890 like the 2,000,000 circulations 
of today. The Atlantic Monthly had a circulation of only about 10,000 in 
the entire United States in 1890, as against twelve times that today. In 1898 
the Saturday Evening Post had a national circulation of 33,069, whereas 
nearly 1,500 copies of each issue go to Middletown alone t^ay.^ 

Based upon subscription and news-stand totals. The circulation of one 
issue, whether weekly or monthly, is here taken as the unit 



or more periodicals. In both groups additional periodicals are 
bought from the news-stand sporadically by certain families. 

The significance of such a ceaseless torrent of printed mat- 
ter in the process of diffusing new tools and habits of thought 
can scarcely be overstated. Does this greater accessibility and 
wider diffusion of books and periodicals today mean, however, 
that Middletown is spending more time in reading? Library 
and periodical records suggest a marked increase, but other evi- 
dence necessitates qualification of this conclusion. The type of 
intellectual life that brought an3rwhere from two dozen to a 
hundred people, chiefly men, together Sunday after Sunday for 
an afternoon of discussing every subject from ^'Books, What to 
Read and How to Read Them” to the Origin of Species and the 
‘"Nature of God” has almost disappeared among the males ; men 
are almost never heard discussing books in Middletown today.^^ 
The impulse in the local labor movement represented in the 
statement in trade union constitutions, “Each labor union 
should found libraries, [and] hold lectures,” and which even- 
tuated in 1900 in the organization of an independent Work- 
ingmen’s Library, has gone.^^ The “reading circles” of the nine- 
ties have all but disappeared, but the women’s clubs of today 
fill much the same place they occupied as stimuli to reading. 
Although groups of ten or twelve women no longer meet 
weekly to gain “the college outlook” by following the four- 
year cycle of Chautauqua readings, at least one business class 
woman is still reading for her “diploma” and more than one 
points to the rows of her mother’s “Chautauqua books,” say- 
ing that they are her chief help in preparing her club pro- 
grams.^® When teachers come together today it is not to read 

male leaders in Middletown read except in a desultory man- 
ner. Social workers and ministers complain that their outstanding prob- 
lem is lack of leadership. “There is no group of intelligentsia here,” said a 
leading minister, “only the bourgeoisie of the Rotary Club.” One never 
hears book-talk around the tables at civic club luncheons. Even the minis- 
ters, as noted elsewhere, have little time to read. 

15 The working men employed one of their number as librarian at $600.00 
a yean Among the purchases for the library recorded in 1900 are the 
American Statesmen Series, John B. Clark’s Distribution of Wealth, Char- 
lotte Perkins Stetson’s Women and Economics, David A. Wells’ Recent 
Economic Changes, “seven books on religion,” and 210 volumes of fiction, 
including Thackeray and Dickens. This was before the day of the auto- 
nK)biIe and movies. The libra^ has long since disappeared. 

1* See Ch. XIX for discussion of the Delphian Chapter, which probably 
corresixm^ most closely to these early reading circles, and for an account 



and discuss books as in the old state reading circles; nor do 
young people meet to read books suggested by the state for 
Young People's Reading Circles, although according to some 
of the teachers, State Young People’s Reading Circles were 
never organized very extensively in Middletown and the re- 
quired supplementary reading now being done in connection 
with English classes in the high school more than makes up 
for their decline.^’’ No longer do a Young Ladies’ Reading 
Circle, a Christian Literary Society (of fifty), a Literary 
League, a Literary Home Circle, a Literary Fireside Club 
meet weekly or bi-weekly as in 1890, nor are reading circles 
formed in various sections of the city, nor does a group of 
young women meet to study the classics.^® The young people’s 
societies of the various churches do not form Dickens Clubs 
or have ""literary evenings,” as, for example, ""an evening with 
Robert Burns,” with the singing and recitation of Bums’ 
poems and the reading of the poet’s biography — a program of 
eleven numbers, concluding with ""a discussion of Burns and 
his writings.” ""Young ladies’ ” clubs in Middletown are more 
likely now to play bridge; the attenuated church young peo- 
ple’s societies follow mission study or other programs sent out 

of the other women’s study* clubs. In these days of multiplied periodicals, 
public libraries, motion pictures at every cross-road, and no farm house 
or village too isolated to ^‘tune in” on a metropolitan lecture or symphony 
concert, it is difficult to appreciate the vigor and enthusiasm aroused by 
the Chautauqua and Bay View circles. By 1903, says the Chautauqua book- 
let on Literature and the Larger Life, “more than 11,000 Chautauqua 
circles” had been conducted in “about 6,000” different localities. To these 
eager groups that met “around the study lamp” week after week, “Mehr 
Licht,” the motto of the Bay View Circle, and Bishop Vincent’s quotation 
of “]feiowledge is power” at the opening of the Chautauqua Circle, were 
no mere mottoes but promises of fuller life. In Middletown a number of 
women, after having followed the “readings” on German literature or Greek 
life, one year on each country through four years, took examinations and 
received their “diplomas,” a few going on to Chautauqua, New York, for 
the graduation exercises. 

State Teachers’ Reading Circles were active in the nineties. Earlier 
figures are not available, but in 1902-3, 180 of 286 teachers in the county- 
are listed as members of the state reading circles, and of the 10,566 chil- 
dren enrolled in the schools of the county, 1,817 belonged to state reading 
circles owning 3,412 books. 

Such a group as this last did not meet in 1890, but in 1895 the press 
reported a class of ten young women organized two years earlier which 
“meets Saturday afternoon, and has read Ruskin’s Essays, Dante’s Vision, 
Pope’s Homer’s Iliad, and is now reading the Odyssey, a new prose transla- 
tion by George Herbert Palmer, professor of philosophy in Harvard College. 
This little society is a class of students, not a club, and enjoys the distinc- 
tion of having no officers.” 


from denominational headquarters; men do not talk books; 
chiefly in women’s clubs does the earlier tradition persist. 

Middletown papers do not now carry such book advertise- 
ments as were familiar in the nineties : advertisements of the 
Franklin Square Library, Stanley’s In Darkest Africa^ the life 
of Dwight L. Moody, the life of Barnum, ''New Books this 
week — Star Drug Co.: A Laggard in Love by Bettany, The 
Tale of Chloe by Meredith,” or literary notes on '"Black Beauty, 
the Uncle Tom's Cabin of the horse (price 12c.),” John Ward, 
Preacher, or a new edition of The Autocrat of the Breakfast 
Table, So widespread was the reading of certain books that, 
when the census of 1890 was being taken, a local paper sug- 
gested as additional questions for the census taker: "What 
is your opinion of the evolution theory? and, Have you read 
Robert Elsmeref" Even a young baker noted in his diary the 
riding of Rvi>ert Elsmere between his hilarious evenings of 
^'banging about town.” A newspaper in 1892 offered "a set of 
Dickens to the person sending in the best record of the num- 
ber, contents, and firms inserting advertisements in the Trib- 
une" — 2i procedure hardly apt to elicit popular response today. 

Concrete evidence of sorts as to the amount of time Middle- 
town spends reading today is afforded by the statements of the 
women interviewed as to the amount of time they and their 
families spend in reading of all kinds, including newspapers, 
periodicals, and books. Of the forty business class and 117 
working class male heads of families for whom data were 
secured from their wives, only one of the former and nineteen 
of the latter were said to spend no time in reading of any kind.^® 
None of these business class wives said she reads none at all, 
as against twenty-one of the workers’ wives; twenty (half) of 
the former and thirty (a fourth) of the latter average six or 
more hours of reading a week. 

To working class women reading apparently presents itself 
as a less urgent leisure-time pursuit than to women of the busi- 

do you get time to read?” a rising young lawyer was asked. 
**1 don’t — much. It’s next to impossible to get any regular reading or 
sfeidy done. We know an awful lot of people and at least two or three 
eiv^imgs every week go out with them. Now Monday evening we went 
ov^ to a little club we belong to where we play cards every week, Tues- 
went to diat lecture for the benefit of the Day Nursery, Wednesday 
I f^get what we did, but we went somewhere or other — and so the week 



ness group. Although eighteen of the former mentioned reading 
as the chief thing they would like to do with an extra hour in 
the day,^^ answers of these women were given only after some 
urging and tended to ^e vague, as ''Oh, I don't know — read, I 
guess."" Considerably more frustration was reflected in the more 
pointed answers of the fourteen business class women who men- 
tioned reading: 

^T would read if I only had the energy and quiet." 

^T have tried three times to get into The New Decalogue of 
Science, but I never have time to give to it." 

'T would take up some definite study. I am really interested in 
intellectual work, but I have so little time for it. I have tried to 
get one of the librarians at the public library to make me out a 
list of books on history but it doesn^t work very well. My reading 
is so scattered, due to my children being small, and I want to or- 
ganize it.” 

'T just read magazines in my scraps of time. I should so like 
to do more consecutive reading but I don't know of any reading 
course or how to make one out." 

According to statements of the women interviewed as to the 
time they and their husbands spend in reading as compared with 
the time spent by the wife's parents in the nineties, business 
class men would appear to read somewhat less, business class 
women about the same amount, and working class men and 
women somewhat more than did the wife's parents a genera- 
tion ago.^^ The trends possibly suggested by these answers are 
supported by the observation of teachers and others who have 

20 For answers to this question see Qi. XIX. 

21 Some working men, however, found time for a good deal of reading in 
the nineties. A partial list of the books recorded^ in the diary of the baker 
quoted above as read during the year 1889-91 includes: Barriers Burned 
Away, Robert Elsmere, Dinna Forget, Dr, Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (“made 
my hair stand on end”), Camille, or the Fate of a Coquette (“a tale of fast 
life”), The Rock or the Rye, Broken Vows, The Kreutzer Sonata, Lovefs 
Conflict, Linda Newton: or Lifers Discipline, Huckleberry Finn, ^d Hu- 
tory of the United States in Our Time (Pt. I). The diary of this young 
blood, whose comment after seeing Faust at the local Opera House was: 
“Very good. Makes a person think of the hereafter,” and who had only 
eighteen evenings in a six-month stretch when he was not “on the go” “out 
having a time,” records his managing to read one book every six weeks or 
two months. 



known Middletown since the nineties. Any increase in book 
reading indicated by heavier library circulation is certainly not 
among business class men and only to a limited extent among 
their wives.^^ It may reflect an increase in the amount of read- 
ing done by the working class and particularly by children of 
this group, as habits of prolonged schooling and increased use 
of the library are spreading among them.^^ More buying of 
cheap paper-covered books in the nineties and the reading of 
books from the meager Sunday School libraries undoubtedly 
offset to some extent the increased use of the public library 
and the far wider periodical circulations of today. Testimony 
of many local people suggests that more things are skimmed 
today but that there is less of the satisfaction of "'a good eve- 
ning of reading.^’ There appears to be considerably less read- 
ing aloud by the entire family. 

As Middletown reads it is participating in other worlds, being 
subjected to other ways of living. The nature of this culture 
stream from without is worth scrutinizing. A catalogue of the 

22 The predominance of women among users of the library appears in the 
fact that of 486 adults taking out new cards in a sample period immediately 
following January i, 1922, 64 per cent, were women, and of 492 adults taking 
out cards in a similar period following September i, 1923, 61 per cent were 

2^ Eleven per cent of 275 boys and 8 per cent of 341 girls in the three 
upper years of the high school answered ‘‘reading’* to the question asked in 
mid-November, “In what thing that you are doing at home this fall are 
you most interested?” 

Three hundred and six boys and 379 girls in the last three years of the 
high school listed their reading of books in a “usual month,” and 315 boys 
and 395 girls, largely the same group, listed their reading of magazines in 
a “usual month” as follows : 

Percentage Percentage 
of Boys of Girls 

Total 100 


Read no books out- 
side of school 




Read i book 



Read 2 books .... 



Read 3-5 books 



Repd 6-8 books .... 



Read 9 or more 




Percentage Percentage 
of Boys of Girls 

100 100 

Read no magazines 



Read i magazine. . . 



Read 2 magazines . . 



Read 3-5 magazines 35 


Read 6-8 magazines 



Read 9 or more 




The boys of this group averaged 2.4 magazines read regularly, and the 
girls 2 A The boys averaged 3.2 books read monthly and the girls 3.I- 



books available in the adult department of the Middletown 
library, issued in 1893, showed in useful arts (technology, ad- 
vertising, salesmanship, etc.) 91 books as against 1,617 
adult department of the library in 1924; in fine arts 45 as 
against 1,166; in history 348 as against 2,867; biography 
132 as against 1,396; in sociology 106 as against 1,937; 
literature 164 as against 2,777; science 89 as against 585; 
and so on through the other classifications. During the twenty 
years between 1903, the first year for which library circulation 
figures are available, and 1923, while the population less than 
doubled and the reading of library books in the adult depart- 
ment of the library increased more than fourfold, reading 
of library books on useful arts increased sixty-two-fold; on 
the fine arts twenty-eight-fold ; on philosophy, psychology, etc., 
twenty-six-fold; on religion, particularly the religion of this 
group, elevenfold; on the institutional devices involved in 
group life, sociology, economics, etc., ninefold; on history 
eightfold; on science sixfold; of fiction less than fourfold; 
and so on.^® To Middletown adults, reading a book means 
overwhelmingly what story-telling means to primitive man — 
the vicarious entry into other, imagined kinds of living; in 
1903, 92 per cent, of all the library books read by adults were 
fiction, as against 83 per cent, in 1923. Under a trained chil- 
dren's librarian the reading of fiction by children has decreased 
from 90 per cent, of the total of books read in 1903 to 67 per 
cent, in 1923.^® This interest in imaginative narratives, like the 
constant movie attendance to be noted later and the prime 
popularity of comedy and society films, obviously assumes 
greater significance when viewed against the background of the 
day-long preoccupation with getting a living and other rou- 
tinized activities in this prairie city. Says one of Middletown’s 

24 The librarian says that books on business, particularly salesmanship and 
advertising, and technical books, particularly those on automobiles and 
radio, are in such demand that they are “never on the shelves.*' 

25 See Table XVII. 

A distinct trend towards the secularization of the books in the library on 
natural science is observable when the current catalogue is compared with 
that of thirty-five years ago. In the 1893 catalogue the scientific books 
commonly bore such titles as The Wonders of Creation, The Welders of 
Bodily Strength, The Wonders of God's Universe, as over against such 
titles in the 1924 catalogue as Introduction to Geology. 

25 In 1903 the children of Middletown read 12,224 library books, ^ of which 
11,048 were fiction, as against a total of 93,873 in 1923, of which 63,307 
were fiction. 



prominent citizens in an editorial in the local press tinder the 
caption “Kicking Over the Traces’': 

“Most of us, perhaps fortunately, take it out in wishing. We 
can’t rush off to Timbuctoo when it is necessary for us to stay 
home and provide food, coal, and shoes Tor the missus and the 
kids/ If we were to do so, we wouldn’t have a good time. 

“And so we remain at home, go to the office at eight in the 
morning and depart from it at six at night, and we attend com- 
mittee meetings, and drive the old family bus over the streets that 
we have traversed a thousand times before, and in general con- 
tinue the life of the so-called model citizen. 

“But these conditions need not fetter our fancy. In that realm 
we can scale the lofty Matterhorn, sail the sleepy Indian Sea, 
mine glittering gold in the snow-clad mountains of Alaska^ tramp 
the Valley of t& Moon, and idle along the majestic Amazon.” 

And so, as in primitive story-telling, the social function of these 
forays into the realm of fancy demands that the experiences 
thus vicariously shared be happy or valorous ones. “There’s 
enough trouble in the world all about one, so why should peo- 
ple have to put it in books ?” is an opinion frequently heard in 
connection with the prevailing demand for “happy endings — 
or at least endings that if not exactly happy still exalt you and 
make you feel that the world is coming out all right.” Many 
people in Middletown would agree with their favorite poet, 
Edgar Guest, in condemning people who condone “sin or 
unhappiness” in fiction by saying, “The book is sordid, but it’s 
art !” He concludes his syndicated message in the local press : 

27 The position^ of this reading of books, predominantly fiction, as a 
marginal leisure-time activity with many people, is suggested by the fact 
that, if the circulation to students of the local normal college be not included, 
the mon^ly totals of library books read tend to be from 50 to 100 per cent, 
heavier in winter than during the summer. The compulsory supplementary 
reading of high school students figures somewhat in this increase. 

28 “Eddie” Guest is more widely read in Middletown than any other poet, 
with Riley as runner-up in popularity. Rotary has tried to secure him as 
a speaker, as has the Men’s Club in a leading church. In a group of college- 
trained men prominent in local life, one said that “Eddie” Guest and Riley 
were his favorite poets, “That man Guest certainly gets to my heart” ; 
tme hked Kipling, “never could get Bums, and Byron always seemed a dirty 
fdlow dressed up in poetic form” ; while a third prefers Kipling and “never 
cp#d get Browning. Why didn’t he say it in prose instead of the awful 



'"But should you by chance be cheerful, using people not so fearful. 
Should your characters go smiling down the street ; 

Should your fiction girl or man do just the very best they can do 
With the obstacles and trials they must meet; 

Should they come to sane conclusions about life and its illusions. 
Should they keep their marriage vow 'till death do part/ 
Should they find a thrill in duty and in life some joy and beauty. 
They will say : 'The story’s pretty, but not art !’ ” 

Any detailed analysis of the contents of the periodicals which 
flood Middletown weekly and monthly is impossible. Of the 225 
periodicals offered by the Middletown library in 1924, twenty- 
five were trade and technical journals, twenty-three religious, 
fifteen educational, nine each women’s, public administration, 
and juvenile magazines, eight each business and financial, 
scientific, and arts and decoration, seven nature, six eco- 
nomic, five musical, five garden, four household arts, four 
travel, three theater, etc.; of the nineteen periodicals in the 
1890 library, seven were children’s papers, six general month- 
lies, three weeklies, two scientific journals, one agricultural. 
Some further indication of the way periodicals operate, prob- 
ably even more powerfully than books, to shape the habits and 
outlook of the city, may be gathered from the distribution of 
-certain national periodicals. Approximately one in each five of 
the 9,200 homes in the city receives the American Magazine 
and one in each six the Saturday Evening Post, Each of the 
following goes regularly into from one in each five to one in 
each ten of the homes: Delineator^ Ladies' Home Journal, 
McCall's, Physical Culture, True Story, Woman's Home Com- 
panion. Two hundred to 500 homes receive one or more of 
Adventure, Argosy, Collier's, College Humor, Cosmopolitan, 
Country Gentleman, Dream World, Good Housekeeping, 
Hearst's International, Modern Marriage, Motion Picture 
Magazine, National Geographic, Pictorial Review, Popular 
Science, Red Book, True Romance, and others. One hundred 
to 200 receive College Comics, Flynn's Magazine, Triple X, 
True Confessions, True Detective Magazine, Whiz Bang, and 
many others. Approximately sixty receive Vogue and the same 
number Vanity Fair, about thirty-five the Atlantic Monthly, 
about twenty each Harper's and the Century, about fifteen the 


New Republic, five the Living Age, four the Survey, three the 

The different levels of diffusion within the city appear in 
the fact that fifty-four periodicals drawing 115 subscriptions 
from the thirty-nine business class families giving informa- 
tion on this point have not one from the 122 workers’ families^, 
while forty-eight periodicals drawing ninety-six subscriptions 
from seventy-five working class families have none of this 
group of business class families as a subscriber; in between 
is a narrow group of twenty periodicals with 128 subscrip- 
tions from thirty-eight business class families and 105 
from seventy-five workers’ families. Nine of the 122 workers 
and seventeen of this business class group take the Literary 
Digest j seven of the former and twenty of the latter the Saturn 
day Evening Post; forty-four of the workers’ wives subscribe 
to women’s magazines, scattering a total of 10 1 subscriptions 
among twenty-one different women’s magazines, while the 
twenty-seven of the business class wives who take women s 
magazines bunch their forty-eight subscriptions among only 
nine magazines, almost entirely recognized leading maga- 
zines ; ^ thirteen of the workers and nineteen of this business 
group subscribe to the American Magazine ; there are only seven 
subscriptions to juvenile magazines among 122 workers’ fam- 
ilies, as against twenty-six among the thirty-nine business class 
families; none of the sample of workers takes a magazine of 
the Atlantic, Harper's, World's Work type, as against a total 
of twenty-two such subscriptions among less than one-third as 
many of the business group. 

A cleavage between the reading habits of the two sexes is 
possibly suggested by the answers of 310 boys and 391 girls in 

28 All figures include both subscriptions and news-stand sales. Beyond this 
count the list of periodicals received in various homes of the city extends on 
indefinitely— ffo/ Dog, Sporting News, Secrets, Psychology, Movie Thriller, 
Mind Power Plus, Art and Life, AH Lovers, Boxing Blade, Experience, 
Health and Life, Correct Eating, Ace-High, Action Stories, Black Mask, 
Breezy Stories, Droll Stories, Hunting and Fishing, Jim Jam Jems, La Vie 
Parisienne, Live Stories, Love Story Magazine, Real Life, Motor, Cartoons, 
Golf, Red Pepper, S Greenland, Sea Stories, specialized business and tech- 
nical magazines, etc. 

^ The import of this fact that, by and large, the poorer grades of women's 
f*iagazkies go to the workers and the better grades to the business group can- 
not be overlooked in its significance for the differential rate of diffusion of 
moiierh habits of making a home to the two groups. 



the three upper years of the high school to the question, ^‘What 
magazines other than assigned school magazines do you usually 
read every month?'’ Forty-four boys and 367 girls read 
women's magazines;®^ ninety-five boys and fifteen girls read 
scientific magazines; 114 boys and seventy-six girls read the 
Saturday Evening Post, Collier" s and Liberty group of week- 
lies; thirty-five boys and two girls read outdoor magazines; 
seventy-two boys and sixteen girls read juvenile magazines; 
other smaller groups were more evenly balanced. 

Although, according to the city librarian, increased interest 
in business and technical journals has been marked, as in its 
reading of books Middletown appears to read magazines pri- 
marily for the vicarious living in fictional form they contain. 
Such reading centers about the idea of romance underlying the 
institution of marriage; since 1890 there has been a trend 
toward franker ‘'sex adventure” fiction. It is noteworthy that a 
culture which traditionally taboos any discussion of sex in its 
systems of both religious and secular training and even until 
recently in the home training of children should be receiving 
such heavy diffusion of this material through its periodical 
reading matter. The aim of these sex adventure magazines, dif- 
fusing roughly 3,500 to 4,000 copies monthly throughout the 
city, is succinctly stated in the printed rejection slip received 
by a Middletown author from the New Fiction Publishing 
Corporation : 

‘Live Stories is interested in what we call ‘sex adventure’ 
stories told in the first person. The stories should embody pic- 
turesque settings for action; they should also present situations 
of high emotional character, rich in sentiment. A moral conclu- 
sion is essential.” 

‘‘Until five years ago,” said a full-page advertisement in a Mid- 
dletown paper in 1924, “there was nowhere men and women, boys 
and girls could turn to get a knowledge of the rules of life. They 
were sent out into the world totally unprepared to cope with life. 

31 The groups given here are, of course, not mutually exclusive. The 
predominance of the reading of magazines on making a home among girls 
of this age and the fact that, aside from this negligible^ fringe of boys, the 
males of the group neither here nor elsewhere come in contact with any 
discussion of home-making problems is suggestive in connection with the 
concentration "of the males upon matters divorced from the home and the 
fact that habits of management are still in vogue in the homes of Middle- 
town that are becoming obsolete in Middletown* s industries. 



. . . Then came True Story, a magazine that is different from 
any ever published. Its foundation is the solid rock of truth. . . . 
It will help you, too. In five years it has reached the unheard-of 
circulation of two million copies monthly, and is read by five 
million or more appreciative men and women.’’ 

In these magazines Middletown reads "'The Primitive Lover” 
(“She wanted a caveman husband”), “Her Life Secret,” “Can 
a Wife Win with the Other Woman’s Weapons?” “How to 
Keep the Thrill in Marriage,” “What I Told My Daughter the 
Night Before Her Marriage” (“Every girl on the eve of her 
marriage becomes again a little frightened child”) . 

While four leading motion picture houses were featuring 
synchronously four sex adventure films. Telling Tales on the 
Middletown news-stands was featuring on its cover four stories, 
“Indolent Kisses,” “Primitive Love,” “Watch Your Step-Ins!” 
("‘Irene didn’t, and you should have seen what happened!”) 
and “Innocents Astray.” The way Middletown absorbs this 
culture about (to quote the advertisement of a local film) 
“things you’ve always wanted to do and never dared” was sug- 
gested by the coverless, thumb-marked condition of the Jan- 
uary, 1925, Motion Picture Magazine in the Public Library a 
fortnight after its arrival. One page, captioned “Under the 
Mistletoe,” depicted seven “movie kisses” with such captions 

“Do you recognize your little friend, Mae Busch? She’s had 
lots of kisses, but never seems to grow blase. At least, you’ll 
agree that she’s giving a good imitation of a person enjoying this 
one,” and “If some one should catch you beneath the mistletoe 
and hold you there like this, what would you do ? Struggle ? But 
making love divinely is one of the best things Monte Blue does. 
Can’t you just hear Marie Prevost’s heart going pitty-pat ?” 

And a Middletown mother complained to the interviewer, 
“Children weren’t bold like they are today when we were 

Music, like literature, is a traditional leisure activity regarded 
as of sufficient importance to be made compulsory for the 
young. The emergence of music to a prominent place in the 
school curriculum has already been described. It seems probable 
from informal local testimony that the taking of music lessons 



is a generally accepted essential in a child’s home training among 
a wider group of the city’s families than in the nineties. In 
forty-one of the 124 working class families, all of whom, it 
will be recalled, have children of school age, one or more chil- 
dren had taken music lessons during the preceding year; in 
twenty-seven of the group of forty business class families inter- 
viewed, one or more children had taken lessons.“ Of fifty-four 
workers’ wives reporting on the amount of time their children 
spend on music, forty-four said that they themselves spent less 
time on music as children than do their children today, while 
only five spent more time, and five “about the same.” Among 
the business class, sixteen reported that they had spent less 
time on music than do their children, three that they spent 
more time, and three “about the same.” In answer to the ques- 
tion to the three upper classes in the high school, “In what 
thing that you are doing at home this fall are you most inter- 
ested?” “music” led the list with the 341 girls, being named 
by 26 per cent, of them, with “sewing” next most often men- 
tioned, by 15 per cent. ; among the 274 boys “radio” led the list, 
being mentioned by 20 per cent., while “music” followed with 
15 per cent. The current interest arises in part from the muscu- 
larity injected into music by jazz, the diffusion of instruments 
other than the piano, and the social and sometimes financial 
accompaniments of knowing how to “play.” The one musical 
club among women of the business class maintains a Junior and 
a Juvenile section with social meetings at which children play 
for an audience of their mothers ; in addition to the two high 
school bands and three orchestras, Middletown has a boys* 

32 Of the 100 working class families for whom income distribution was 
secured, twenty- four reported money spent on music lessons for children. 
The amounts ranged from $2.50 to $104.00, averaging $44-57- See Table VI. 

Comments by various parents reveal how seriously many of them take 
this training in music ; witness a working class family of five in which the 
mother teadies one son to play the piano and the father teaches another son 
the drums, the mother explaining that “there is so much bad in life to k^p 
children away from that we’ve decided it’s hopeless to try, and the only thing 
to do is to make them love so many good things t^t they’ll never pay^ atten- 
tion to the had things.” Another worker’s wife said that her sister cnticiz^ 
them for spending so much on their son’s music, “but I feel his talent should 
be developed and want him to have a musical education if that’s what he 
wants.” The ubiquitous clash between having more children and maintainmg 
a higher standard for fewer children came out in the remark of a niodest- 
salaried business man’s wife, “Our oldest boy takes music lessons and they 
cost US a good deal— $1.85 a week. That’s why you can’t have more children 
when everything you do for them costs so much.” 



band, a girls’ band, and a band of both boys and girls from 
nine to thirteen years/* 

Mechanical inventions such as the phonograph and radio are 
further bringing to Middletown more contacts with more kinds 
of music than ever before. Thirty-five years ago diffusion of 
musical knowledge was entirely in the handicraft stage; today 
it has entered a machine stage. The first phonograph was ex- 
hibited locally in 1890 and was reported as ‘'drawing large 
crowds. The Edison invention is undoubtedly the most wonder- 
ful of the age.” Now these phonographs have become so 
much a part of living that, for example, a family of three, 
when the father was laid off in the summer of 1923, “strapped 
a trunk on the running board of the Ford, put the Victrola in 
the back seat with the little girl, and went off job-hunting. 
Wherever we lived all summer we had our music with us.” ** 

And yet, although more music is available to Middletown 
than ever before and children are taught music with more or- 

Those familiar with the local musical life express the belief that the 
mxhestral and other musical work in the high schools is recruiting an 
entirely new crop of musicians rather than reducing^ the number playing the 
piano. This is probably less true in the case of girls than^ of boys. Boys 
are more attracted to other instrumental work than to the piano because of 
the prestige of playing in one of the high school bands or in the well- 
known local boys’ band, and more particularly because of the money they 
can playing in small dance orchestras. The energetic jazz aggregation 
of four or five boys, featuring the easily learned saxophone, presents a new 
and relatively distinguished occupation by which sons of working class 
parents are seeking in some cases to escape from the industrial level. The 
city has several of these small groups seeking engagements playing for 

As late as 1900 ‘‘graphophones” were still curiosities. “The graphophone 
is rapidly superseding the piano in Middletown saloons. Fully fifty are being 
used and they never fail to draw large crowds,” says the press. 

«®The ownership of radios in Middletown is noted elsewhere. No check 
was made of the ownership of phonographs and of pianolas. Of 100 
working class families from whom expenditures were secured, however, 
twenty-three had bought phonograph records during the last twelve months. 
Eleven had bought less than $5.00 worth each; the amounts ranged from 
$1.05 to $50.00, averaging $11.17. Three had spent money for pianola records, 
each less than $4.00 worth. More than twenty-three phonographs were 
owned by these 100 families, however, as a number of others spoke of own- 
ing them but of having no money to spend on records. There was a marked 
tendency to sacrifice phonograph records both to the cost of installing a 
radio and to the cost of children’s music lessons. 

In the study of Zanesville, Ohio, in 1925 there were discovered phono- 
graphs in 54 per cent, of the homes, pianos in 43 per cent., organs in 3 per 
cpit. and other musical instruments in 8 per cent. ; the figures for the thirty- 
six cities, including Middletown, compared with Zanesville were 59 per cent,^ 
51 per cent, i per cent, and ii per cent, respectively. {Op. cit., p. 112.) 


ganized zeal than formerly, the question arises, as in the case 
of reading, as to whether music actually bulks larger as a 
form of leisure-time enjoyment than in the nineties. If one 
boy in each six or seven in high school enjoys music more than 
any other leisure-time home activity, this enthusiasm evap- 
orates between high school and his active life as one of those 
getting Middletown’s living. Music, like poetry and the other 
arts, is almost non-existent among the men. As noted else- 
where, ^^having a love of music and poetry” was ranked ninth 
among the qualities desirable in a father by 369 high school 
boys and seventh by 415 girls, only 4 per cent, of the boys and 
6 per cent, of the girls ranking it as one of two qualities in the 
list of ten that they considered most desirable.®® Music for 
adults has almost ceased to be a matter of spontaneous, active 
participation and has become largely a passive matter of listen- 
ing to others. The popular singing societies of the nineties 
have disappeared, with one working class exception. One such 
group in the nineties, composed of workers, met every Sunday 
afternoon and Thursday evening with a ‘'keg of beer” and a 
hired ‘‘instructor.” Another singing society celebrated its sixty- 
fourth anniversary in 1890. Still another group of forty of the 
city’s male social leaders, calling themselves the Apollo Club 
and dubbed “dudes” by the others, met every Friday evening, 
“instructed by Professor B ” who came over from a neigh- 

boring city; its three concerts each year were widely attended 
and received enthusiastic reports in the press. Even school- 
boys apparently enjoyed chorus singing, for as late as 1900, 
300 of them gave a concert at the Opera House, the program 
including Gounod’s “Praise Ye the Father,” “The Lord’s 
Prayer,” and “Follow On” from Der Freischuts. In comment- 
ing upon the rehearsals, the local press said, “The boys are 
enjoying the practicing and are attending well despite the fine 
marble weather.” 

Even more characteristic of the nineties was spontaneous 
singing as a part of the fun of any and all gatherings. When a 
family reunion was held it began with prayer and ended with 
the inevitable address and singing; at the lawn fetes of the day 
some of those present would sing or play while the others sat in 
the windows or on the porch rail and listened. “Lay awake 
awhile last night,” says a local diary, “listening to sero- 
sa See Table XV. 



BE^Iers.” The diary of the young baker mentions music of all 
sorts as an informal part of his '‘banging around town” night 
after night: 

^Went to L s’ and serenaded them.” "Gang over at 

N s\ Singing, guitar, mouth harp, piano, cake, bananas, 

oranges and lemonade. Had a time!” "Yesterday ’s birthday, 

so he set up cigars and a keg at the union meeting. After the 
meeting we played cards and sang till eleven.” 

Even at an "elegant party” of "some of our society young men” 
of the Success Qub in 1900 the press states that "an entertain- 
ment of vocal solos and readings was enjoyed by those 

Solo singing or group singing to jazz accompaniment still 
appears occasionally at small parties but is far less common 
fh^Tx a generation ago. Serenading is a thing of the past. Chorus 
choirs are disappearing in the churches most frequented by 
the business class. There is today no chorus of business class 
men. In the city of today, nearly three and one-half times as 
large as that of 1890, there are only two adult musical societies 
in which the earlier tradition survives, as over against four in 
1890.®^ The first is a chorus of working class men. This, to- 
gether with the chorus choirs in working class churches and 
the frequent appearance of songs and recitations in the 1890 
manner in the "socials” of these churches, suggests the rela- 
tively greater place of singing and playing in the play life of 
wor^ng class adults. It suggests, too, the tendency noted else- 
where for many of the workers’ habits to lag roughly a gen- 
eration behind those of the business class. 

A second group participating actively in music is composed 
of women of the business class. This group, responsible for 
most of the organized musical life of the city, began in 1889 
with a membership of thirty of the city’s leading women, each 
of whom appeared on the program at every third meeting. To- 
day it has 249 members, sixty-seven of them active, forty- 
eight professional, and ten chorus members, with many even of 
these taking no active part in the meetings. "The interest in the 
club and participation in its programs is not as great today as 

87 The war brought “community singing*’ and it survives today principally 
in the civic clubs. Here it has relatively little life qua singing, aside from the 
stunts or novelties that the pianist or leader injects into it. 



in the nineties/^ lamented one member. *‘Now there are so many 
clubs and other diversions to occupy people’s time.” Those 
most active in the club complain o£ continual lack of interest 
on the part of the members. The sophistication of a few of the 
more privileged women in the city tends to make them im- 
patient of a less cultivated group to whom the club affords a 
more satisfying form of social and artistic expression. There 
was a net drop in membership of fifty-nine from 1923-24 to 
1924-25. A possible indication of what the mass of the mem- 
bers prefer is furnished by the fact that a recitation to music 
of Eugene Field’s "'the dear little boy, the sweet little boy, the 
pretty little bow-legged boy” will be greeted with more applause 
on a program of American music than characteristic examples 
of Negro and Indian music. Leaders complain of lack of sup- 
port for the various concerts which they bring to the city, al- 
though they say that Middletown is “music hungry” ; the con- 
cert of an organization like the Letz Quartet barely pays for 
itself, but some song recitals receive more support. 

It is an open question whether the devotion of Middletown 
to music as a personal art, as opposed to listening to music, 
today is not more a part of tradition and the institutional rela- 
tionships kept alive as part of the adult social system than of 
the spontaneous play life of the city. Music seems to serve 
in part as a symbol that one belongs, and much of the musical 
activity of the women appears as a rather self-conscious ap- 
pendage of the city’s club life. An incipient trend away from 
the ritual of music lessons for children may be apparent in the 
remark of a prominent mother: “My children are not inter- 
ested in music and there are so many things children can be in- 
terested in today that we are not going to waste time and 
money on them until they really want it. I had five years of 
lessons as a girl and can’t play a thing today. I’m not going to 
make this mistake with my children.” The mothers of the pres- 
ent generation of children were brought up in a culture widiout 
Victrola and radio when the girl in the crowd who could play 
while the others sang or danced was in demand. In their in- 
sistence upon music lessons for their children they may be re- 
living a world that no longer exists. Today when great artists 
or dance orchestras are in the cabinet in the corner of one’s 
living room or “on the air,” the ability to “play a little” may 
be in increasingly less demand. It seems not unlikely that, within 



•&e iiext generation, this habit of taking music lessons may- 
become more selective throughout the entire population as music 
is made available to all through instruction in the schools and 
wide diffusion of Victrolas, radios, and other instruments in 
the home, while other abilities supplant it as the ritualistic 
social grace it so often is today. 

Like music, art as a leisure-time activity appears to be some- 
what more a thing of passive knowledge than of creative enjoy- 
ment. It, too, has its national "‘week” celebrated locally and its 
place in the school curriculum, but even more than music it is 
among adults largely a social ritual of a small group of privi- 
leged women. 

The art activity of the city in 1890 was largely confined to 
the business class. Early in the eighties a number of citizens 
lent a promising artist in the state capital a sum of money to 
go to Munich to study; in return, he undertook to copy cele- 
brated pictures for their homes. In 1888 this artist, with an 
associate, set up an art school in Middletown. A studio was 
opened in a downtown business block, and larger studios had 
to be taken in each of the two succeeding years. The pupils 
were all local business class women. Annual exhibitions of the 
work of the school were held and enthusiastically reviewed in 
local papers, and many of the paintings found their way to the 
walls of the homes of the city. In 1892 the school was given 
up and the Art Students^ League was organized. ‘‘The great 
thing in this world,^^ according to the motto of the League, 
“is not so much where we stand as in which direction we are 
moving.’^ The members rented a studio where some of them 
worked daily, having a class model one evening a week. Mem- 
bers brought sketches to each meeting, sketches made on the 
river bank or in their yards or homes.®® 

Creating “art” is no part of the program of the present Art 
Students^ League. This fashionable club now meets to listen 
to papers by members or by traveled speakers giving “an ex- 

^ Typical of the prevailing neighborly simplicity of this concern for local 
art were the annual loan exhibitions of art objects from the homes of the 
city conducted by the League. In 1894, e.g., the exhibition consisted of 
thirty-two paintings in oil from local homes, twenty water colors, seven 
studip in charcoal and pastel, needlework and laces lent by fourteen people, 
bric-a-brac and antiques lent by twenty-one people, china painting lent by 
fourteen people, and wood carving lent by three people. 



haustlve description o£ modern excavations in North and Cen- 
tral America/’ or an account of “Renaissance Art/’ or “Japan- 
ese Prints.” The programs for a given year have coherence but 
may skip in fourteen meetings from “The Character of the 
Early Christian, Byzantine, Romanesque, and Gothic Periods,” 
through “A Historic Survey of the Middle Ages,” “Medieval 
Sculpture and Painting,” and various aspects of Renaissance 
history, architecture, sculpture, and painting. The Literature 
and Art Department of the local Woman’s Club is a less so- 
cially exclusive group of women, engaged largely in writing 
and listening to papers on similar subjects. Art figures sporadi- 
cally in the programs of other women’s clubs. A few women in 
the city continue their interest in painting and sketching. 

One is struck by the gap that exists between “art” as dis- 
cussed in these groups and as observed in most of the homes. 
As noted in Chapter IX, although art is regarded, at least 
among the business class, as a thing of unusual merit, art in the 
homes is highly standardized and used almost entirely as fur- 
niture.^® With the exception of a few wealthy families, people 
do not have collections of unframed prints as they do of books 
and Victrola records. It is noteworthy, too, that the buildings 
for religious worship are, with the exception of the Catholic 
church and an occasional Sunday School room, naked of art 

Art is diffused to Middletown by more channels today than 
in 1890. In place of the early art school, local loan exhibitions, 
and forty-five volumes on fine arts in the public library, there 
are today the Art Students’ League, the Art and Literature 

It is to the point to recall how essentially primitive is this limitation of 
creative spontaneity that has gone forward in the art of Middletown since 
1890. Speaking of the period of man^s known history, Teggart says : “It is 
difficult for the modem man to realize that, in the earlier period, individu- 
ality did not exist. ... So completely was the individual subordinated to the 
community that art was just the repetition of tribal designs, literature the 
repetition of tribal songs, and religion the repetition of tribal rites.” Proc- 
esses of History (New Haven; Yale University Press, 1918), p. 86. 

It is also noteworthy that the tendency observed in Middletown art clubs 
to make the group leisure-time activities “merely imitations of ceremomal 
occupations” also has its roots in life among primitive man. Rivers points 
out, e.g. : “The artistic side of life among the Todas is but little developed. 
Their interest is so much absorbed in ceremony that little is left for the 
development of art, even of a primitive kind. ... In their amusements 
again we shall find that the influence of ceremonial is so great, that many 
of the games are merely imitations of ceremonial occupations.” (The Todas, 
p. 570.) 



Dq>artment of the Women's Club, a collection of paintings in 
the high school, loan exhibitions from museums in other cities, 
1, 1 50 volumes on the fine arts in the public library, art periodi- 
cals such as did not exist in 1890 in the library and in a few 
homes, a high grade of art work in popular magazines, a wide 
contact with art in certain travel and other motion picture 
films, and finally the group training in art in the schools, par- 
ticularly in the high school. 

The most spontaneous artistic life of the city, aside from 
that exhibited in some of the clothing of the younger women, 
is to be found in the high school with its Daubers' Club made 
up of boys and girls from all sections of the city. Nine girls 
out of 341 in the three upper years of the high school listed 
'‘art” as the thing they were doing at home in which they were 
most interested. It is significant that although art was culti- 
vated in 1890 only by a narrow group of business class women, 
only four of these nine girls came from the business class. 
More interesting still in view of the fact that art has always 
been an exclusively female accomplishment in Middletown is 
the fact that twelve boys listed “art” as the thing they are 
doing at home in which they are most interested, only six of 
them coming from the business class. But, like music, art seems 
somehow to drop out of the picture between the time boys and 
girls sketch in their high school classes and the time they be- 
come immersed in the usual activities of Middletown adults. 

Chapter XVIII 


Although lectures, reading, music, and art are strongly in- 
trenched in Middletown’s traditions, it is none of these that 
would first attract the attention of a newcomer watching Mid- 
dletown at play. 

‘Why on earth do you need to study what’s changing this 
country?” said a lifelong resident and shrewd observer of the 
Middle West. '1 can tell you what’s happening in just four 
letters ; a-u-t-o !” 

In 1890 the possession of a pony was the wildest flight of 
a Middletown boy’s dreams. In 1924 a Bible class teacher in a 
Middletown school concluded her teaching of the Creation: 
“And now, children, is there any of these animals that Cxod 
created that man could have got along without?” One after 
another of the animals from goat to mosquito was mentioned 
and for some reason rejected; finally, “The horse!” said one 
boy triumphantly, and the rest of the class agreed. Ten or 
twelve years ago a new horse fountain was installed at the 
corner of the Courthouse square; now it remains dry during 
most of the blazing heat of a Mid-Western summer, and no 
one cares. The “horse culture” of Middletown has almost 

Nor was the horse culture in all the years of its undisputed 
sway ever as pervasive a part of the life of Middletown as is 
the cluster of habits that have grown up overnight around the 
automobile. A local carriage manufacturer of the early days 
estimates that about 125 families owned a horse and buggy in 
1890, practically all of them business class folk. “A regular 

sight summer mornings was Mrs. Jim B [the wife of one 

of the city’s leading men] with a friend out in her rig, shelling 

^Two million horse-drawn carriages were manufactured in the United 
States in 1909 and 10,000 in 1923 ; 80,000 automobiles were manufactured in 
1909 and 4,000,000 in 1923. 




peas for dinner while her horse ambled along the road.” As 
spring came on each year entries like these began to appear in 
the diaries : 

"April I, ’88. Easter. A beantiful day, cloudy at times but very 
warm, and much walking and riding about town.” 

"May 19, ’89. Considerable carriage riding today.” 

"July 16, ’89. Considerable riding this evening. People out 
‘cooling off.’ ” 

"Sept. 18, ’87. Wife and myself went to the Cemetery this 
afternoon in the buggy. Quite a number of others were placing 
flowers upon the graves of their dear ones. . . 

But if the few rode in carriages in 1890, the great mass walked* 
The Sunday afternoon stroll was the rule. 

Meanwhile, in a Middletown machine shop a man was tinker- 
ing at a "steam wagon” which in September, 1890, was placed 
on the street for the first trial. . . . 

"The vehicle has the appearance of an ordinary road wagon, 
when put in motion,” said the newspaper, "though there is no 
tongue attached. It is run on the principle of a railroad locomo- 
tive, a lever in front which guides the vehicle being operated by 
the person driving. The power is a small engine placed under the 
running gears and the steam is made by a small gasoline flame 
beneath a fuel tank. Twenty-five miles an hour can be attained 
with this wonderful device. The wagon will carry any load that 
can be placed on it, climbing hills and passing over bad roads with 
the same ease as over a level road. The wagon complete cost 
nearly $1,000.” 

In other cities other men were also working at these "horseless 
wagons.” ^ As late as 1895 Elwood Haynes of Kokomo, In- 
diana, one of the early tinkerers, was stopped by a policeman 
as he drove his horseless car into Chicago and ordered to take 
the thing off the streets. In 1896 the resplendent posters of the 
alert P. T. Barnum featured in the foreground a "horseless 
carriage to be seen every day in the new street parade” — ^with 
elephants, camels and all the rest of the circus lost in the back- 
ground while the crowd cheers "the famous Duryea Motor- 
wagon or Motorcycle.” 

2 See the Silver Anniversary Number of the Automobile Trade Journal, 
Vol. XXIX, No. 6, Dec. i, 1924, for the story of these adventurous days. 


The first real automobile appeared in Middletown in 1900. 
About 1906 it was estimated that “there are probably 200 in 
the city and county/' At the close of 1923 there were 6,221 
passenger cars in the city, one for every 6.1 persons, or roughly 
two for every three families.^ Of these 6,221 cars, 41 per cent, 
were Fords; 54 per cent, of the total were cars of models of 
1920 or later, and 17 per cent, models earlier than 1917.“^ These 
cars average a bit over 5,cxx> miles a year.® For some of 
the workers and some of the business class, use of the automo- 
bile is a seasonal matter, but the increase in surfaced roads and 
in closed cars is rapidly making the car a year-round tool for 
leisure-time as well as getting-a-living activities. As, at the turn 
of the century, business class people began to feel apologetic if 
they did not have a telephone, so ownership of an automobile 
has now reached the point of being an accepted essential of 
normal living. 

Into the equilibrium of habits which constitutes for each 
individual some integration in living has come this new habit, 
upsetting old adjustments, and blasting its way through such 

3 These numbers have undoubtedly increased greatly since the count was 

As a matter of fact, by far the greater part of the wide diffusion of the 
automobile culture one observes today in Middletown has taken place 
within the last ten or fifteen years. There were less than 500,000 passenger 
automobiles registered in the entire United States in 1910 and only 5 , 50 <>,ooo 
in 1918, as over against 15,500,000 in 1924, (Cf. Facts and Figures of the 
Automobile Industry, Edition, published by the National Automobile 
Chamber of Commerce.) 

•^Some further idea of the spread of automobiles, involving different 
degrees of inroad into the family budgets of the city, is afforded by the 
following list in order of frequency : Ford, 2,578 ; Chevrolet, 590 ; Overland, 
459 ; Dodge, 343 ; Maxwell, 309 ; Buick, 295 ; Studebaker, 264 ; Oakland, 88 ; 
Willy s-Knight, 74; Nash, 73; Interstate, 73; Durant, 65; Star, 62; Olds- 
mobile, 59; Saxon, 53; Reo, 50; Chalmers, 47; Franklin, 45; Essex, 45; 
Hudson, 44; Cadillac, 36; Chandler, 32; Monroe, 31; Paige, 31; Haynes, 
29; International, 26; Sheridan, 26; Hupmobile, 25. Sixty-nine other makes 
are represented by less than twenty-five cars each, including fifteen Mar- 
mons, fourteen Packards, one Pierce-Arrow, one Lincoln, but for the most 
part cheap, early models, many of them of discontinued makes. 

The 6,221 cars owned in the city at the end of 1923 included models of the 
following years : 1924—13 ; 1923 — 901 ; 1922—1,053 ,* 1921 — 633 1 1920—746 J 

1919—585; 1918—447; 1917— 756; 1916—517; 1915—294; 1914—154; 1913— 

85 ,* earlier than 1913 — 37. 

^ This is a rough figure based upon the total of 11,660 passenger cars a.nd 
1,768 trucks registered in the county at the close of 1924, the gasoline 
tax paid during the year, an arbitrary assumption that a truck used three 
times the gas used by a passenger car, and upon an estimate of 17.5 miles 
per gallon. The number of motorcycles is negligible. 



accustomeci and unqiiestioned dicta as “Rain or shine, I never 
miss a Sunday morning at church” ; “A high school boy does 
not need much spending money” ; “I don’t need exercise, walk- 
ing to the office keeps me fit” ; “I wouldn’t think of moving out 
of town and being so far from my friends” ; “Parents ought 
always to know where their children are.” The newcomer is 
most quickly and amicably incorporated into those regions of 
behavior in which men are engaged in doing impersonal, mat- 
ter-of-fact things; much more contested is its advent where 
emotionally charged sanctions and taboos are concerned. No 
one questions the use of the auto for transporting groceries, 
getting to one’s place of work or to the golf course, or in place 
of the porch for “cooling off after supper” on a hot summer 
evening; however much the activities concerned with getting a 
living may be altered by the fact that a factory can draw from 
workmen within a radius of forty-five miles, or however much 
old labor union men resent the intrusion of this new alternate 
way of spending an evening,® these things are hardly major 
issues. But when auto riding tends to replace the traditional 
call in the family parlor as a way of approach between the un- 
married, “the home is endangered,” and all-day Sunday motor 
trips are a “threat against the church”; it is in the activities 
concerned with the home and religion that the automobile 
occasions the greatest emotional conflicts. 

Group-sanctioned values are disturbed by the inroads of the 
automobile upon the family budget.’’^ A case in point is the not 
imcommon practice of mortgaging a home to buy an automo- 
bile. Data on automobile ownership were secured from 123 
working class families. Of these, sixty have cars. Forty-one of 

® “The Ford car has done an awful lot of harm to the unions here and 
ever3rwhere else/' growled one man prominent in Middletown labor circles. 
“As long as men have enough money to buy a second-hand Ford and tires 
and gasoline, they’ll be out on the road and paying no attention to union 

^What a motor car means as an investment by Middletown families can 
be gathered from the following accepted rates of depreciation ; 30 per cent, 
the first year, 20 per cent, more the second, 10 per cent, more each of the 
next three years. The operating cost of the lightest car of the Ford, Chev- 
rolet, Overland type, including garage rent and depreciation, has been 
conservatively figured by a national automotive corporation for the country 
as a whole at $5.00 a week or $0.05 a mile for family use for 5,000 miles a 
year and replacement at the end of seven years. The cost of tires, gas, oil, 
and repairs of the forty-seven of the workers* families interviewed who 
gave expenditures on cars for the past year ranged from $8.90 to $192.00. 



the sixty own their homes. Twenty-six of these forty-one 
families have mortgages on their homes. Forty of the sixty- 
three families who do not own a car own their homes. Twenty- 
nine of these have mortgages on their homes. Obviously other 
factors are involved in many of Middletown’s mortgages. That 
the automobile does represent a real choice in the minds of 
some at least is suggested by the acid retort of one citizen to 
the question about car ownership : ^‘No, sir, we’ve not got a car. 
That's why we’ve got a home.” According to an ofl&cer of a 
Middletown automobile financing company, 75 to 90 per cent, 
of the cars purchased locally are bought on time payment, and 
a working man earning $35.00 a week frequently plans to use 
one week’s pay each month as payment for his car. 

The automobile has apparently unsettled the habit of careful 
saving for some families. ‘Tart of the money we spend on the 
car would go to the bank, I suppose,” said more than one 
working class wife. A business man explained his recent invit- 
ing of social oblivion by selling his car by saying: “My car, 
counting depreciation and everything, was costing mighty 
nearly $100.00 a month, and my wife and I sat down together 
the other night and just figured that we’re getting along, and 
if we’re to have anything later on, we’ve just got to begin to 
save.” The “moral” aspect of the competition between the auto- 
mobile and certain accepted expenditures appears in the remark 
of another business man, “An automobile is a luxury, and no 
one has a right to one if he can’t afford it. I haven’t the slight- 
est sympathy for any one who is out of work if he owns a car.” 

Men in the clothing industry are convinced that automobiles 
are bought at the expense of clothing,® and the statements of a 
number of the working class wives bear this out : 

^‘We’d rather do without clothes than give up the car,” said 
one mother of nine children, “We used to go to his sisteFs to 
visit, but by the time we’d get the children shoed and dressed 

® “The National Retail Clothier has been devoting space to trying to find 
out what is the matter with the clothing industry and has been inclined to 
blame it on the automobile. “In one city, to quote an example cited in the 
articles, a store "put on a campaign that usually resulted in a business of 
150 suits and overcoats on a Saturday afternoon. This season the campaign 
netted seventeen sales, while an automobile agency across the street sold 
twenty-five cars on the weekly payment plan.’ In another, "retail clothiers 
are unanimous in blaming the automobile for the admitted slump in the 
retail clothing trade.’ ” {Chicago Evening Post December 28, 1923.) 



tl^re wasn’t any money left for carfare. Now no matter how 
they look, we just poke ’em in the car and take ’em along-.” 

‘^We don’t have no fancy clothes when we have the car to pay 
for/’ said another. ‘‘The car is the only pleasure we have.” 

Even food may suffer: 

‘‘ni go without food before I’ll see us give up the car,” said one 
woman emphatically, and several who were out of work were 
apparently making precisely this adjustment. 

Twenty-one of the twenty-six families owning a car for 
whom data on bathroom facilities happened to be secured live 
in homes without bathtubs. Here we obviously have a new 
habit cutting in ahead of an older one and slowing down the 
diffusion of the latter.^ 

Meanwhile, advertisements pound away at Middletown peo- 
ple with the tempting advice to spend money for automobiles 
for the sake of their homes and families : 

^‘Hit the trail to better times !” says one such advertisement. 

Another depicts a gray-haired banker lending a young couple the 
money to buy a car and proffering the friendly advice : ‘‘Before 
you can save money, you first must make money. And to make it 
you must have health, contentment, and full command of all your 
resources. ... I have often advised customers of mine to buy- 
cars, as I felt that the increased stimulation and opportunity of 
observation would enable them to earn amounts equal to the cost 
of their cars.” 

^ This low percentage of bathtubs would not hold for the entire car- 
owning group. The interviewers asked about bathtubs in these twenty-six 
cases out of curiosity, prompted by the run-down appearance of the homes. 

While inroads upon savings and the re-allocation of items of home 
expenditure were the readjustments most often mentioned in connection 
with the financing of the family automobile, others also occur : ‘Tt’s pro- 
hibition that’s done it,” according to an officer in the Middletown Trades 
Council; *‘drink money is going into cars.” The same officer, in answering 
the question as to what he thought most of the men he comes in contact with 
are^ working for, guessed: “Twenty-five per cent, are fighting to keep 
their heads above water; 10 per cent, want to own their own homes; 65 
per cent, are working to pay for cars.” “All business is suffering,” says a 
Middletown candy manufacturer and dealer. “The candy business is poor 
now to what it was before the war. There is no money in it any more. 
People just aren’t buying candy so much now. How can they? Even laboring- 
men put all their money into cars, and every other branch of business 
feels it** 



Many families feel that an automobile is justified as an 
agency holding the family group together. 'T never feel as 
close to my family as when we are all together in the car/^ said 
one business class mother, and one or two spoke of giving up 
Country Club membership or other recreations to get a car for 
this reason. “We don’t spend anything on recreation except for 
the car. We save every place we can and put the money into 
the car. It keeps the family together,” was an opinion voiced 
more than once. Sixty-one per cent, of 337 boys and 60 per cent, 
of 423 girls in the three upper years of the high school say that 
they motor more often with their parents than without them.^® 

But this centralizing tendency of the automobile may be only 
a passing phase ; sets in the other direction are almost equally 
prominent. “Our daughters [eighteen and fifteen] don’t use 
our car much because they are always with somebody else in 
their car when we go out motoring,” lamented one business 
class mother. And another said, “The two older children 
[eighteen and sixteen] never go out when the family motors. 
They always have something else on.” “In the nineties we were 
all much more together,” said another wife. “People brought 
chairs and cushions out of the house and sat on the lawn eve- 
nings. We rolled out a strip of carpet and put cushions on the 
porch step to take care of the unlimited overflow of neighbors 
that dropped by. We’d sit out so all evening. The younger cou- 
ples perhaps would wander off for half an hour to get a soda 
but come back to join in the informal singing or listen while 
somebody strummed a mandolin or guitar.” “What on earth do 
you want me to do ? Just sit around home all evening !” retorted 
a popular high school girl of today when her father discouraged 
her going out motoring for the evening with a young blade in a 
rakish car waiting at the curb. The fact that 348 boys and 382 
girls in the three upper years of the high school placed “use of 
the automobile” fifth and fourth respectively in a list of twelve 
possible sources of disagreement between them and their parents 

over against these answers regarding the automobile, 21 per cent, 
of the boys and 33 per cent, of the girls said that they go to the movies 
more often with their parents than without them, 25 per cent, and 22 per 
cent, respectively answered similarly as regards “listening to the radio,” 
and 31 per cent, and 48 per cent, as regards “singing or playing a musical 
instrument.” On the basis of these answers it would appear that the auto- 
mobile is at present operating as a more active agency drawing Middle- 
town families together than any of these other agencies. 



suggests that this may be an increasing decentralizing agent/^ 

An earnest teacher in a Sunday School class of working 
class boys and girls in their late teens was winding up the les- 
son on the temptations of Jesus: “These three temptations 
summarize all the temptations we encounter today: physical 
comfort, fame, and wealth. Can you think of any temptation 
we have today that Jesus didn’t have?” “Speed!” rejoined one 
boy. The unwanted interruption was quickly passed over. But 
the boy had mentioned a tendency underlying one of the four 
chief infringements of group laws in Middletown today, and 
the manifestations of Speed are not confined to “speeding.” 
“Auto Polo next Sunday 1 1 ” shouts the display advertisement of 
an amusement park near the city. “It’s motor insanity — ^too fast 
for the movies 1 ” The boys who have cars “step on the gas,” 
and those who haven’t cars sometimes steal them : “The desire 
of youth to step on the gas when it has no machine of its own,” 
said the local press, “is considered responsible for the theft 
of the greater part of the [154] automobiles stolen from 
[Middletown] during the past year.” 

The threat which the automobile presents to some anxious 
parents is suggested by the fact that of thirty girls brought 
before the juvenile court in the twelve months preceding Sep* 
tember i, 1924, charged with “sex crimes,” for whom the place 
where the offense occurred was given in the records, nineteen 
were listed as having committed the offense in an automobile.^® 
Here again the automobile appears to some as an “enemy” of 
the home and society. 

Sharp, also, is the resentment aroused by this elbowing new 
device when it interferes with old-established religious habits. 

See Table XIII. 

12 In any consideration of the devotion to ‘‘s^ed’' that accompanies the 
coming- of the automobile, it should be borne in mind that the increased 
monotony for the bulk of the workers involved in the shift from the large- 
muscled hand-trades, including farming, to the small-muscled high-speed 
machine-tending jobs and the disappearance of the saloon as an easy means 
of “tellin^ the world to go to hell” have combined with the habit-cracking, 
eye-opening effect of service in the late war to set the stage for the auto- 
mobile as a release. The fact that serviceable second-hand cars can be bought 
for $75.00 and up, the simplicity of installment payment, ^‘the fact that every- 
body has one” — ^all unite to make ownership of a car relatively easy, even 
for boys- Cf. the incident cited above of the boy who wanted to *'swap in 

Ford for a Studebaker that will go seventy-five miles an hour.” 

For ten others charged with sex offenses during this same period the 
scene of the offense was not given. 



The minister trying to change people^s behavior in desired di- 
rections through the spoken word must compete against the 
strong pull of the open road strengthened by endless printed 
‘'copy'" inciting to travel. Preaching to 200 people on a hot, 
sunny Sunday in midsummer on "The Supreme Need of To- 
day/" a leading Middletown minister denounced "automobil- 
itis — ^the thing those people have who go off motoring on Sun- 
day Instead of going to church. If you want to use your car on 
Sunday, take it out Sunday morning and bring some shut-ins 
to church and Sunday School; then in the afternoon, if you 
choose, go out and worship God in the beauty of nature — ^but 
don't neglect to worship Him indoors too."' This same month 
there appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, reaching approxi- 
mately one family in six in Middletown, a two-page spread on 
the automobile as an "enricher of life,’" quoting "a bank presi- 
dent in a Mid-Western city’" as saying, "A man who works six 
days a week and spends the seventh on his own doorstep cer- 
tainly will not pick up the extra dimes in the great thorough- 
fares of life/" "Some sunny Sunday very soon,"" said another 
two-page spread in the Post, "just drive an Overland up to 
your door — ^tell the family to hurry the packing and get aboard 
— ^and be off with smiles down the nearest road — free, loose, 
and happy — Abound for green wonderlands.” Another such ad- 
vertisement urged Middletown to "Increase Your Week- 
End Touring Radius.” If we except the concentrated group 
pressure of war time, never perhaps since the days of the camp- 
meeting have the citizens of this community been subjected to 
such a powerfully focused stream of habit diffusion. To get 
the full force of this appeal, one must remember that the near- 
est lakes or hills are one hundred miles from Middletown in 
either direction and that an afternoon’s motoring brings only 
mile upon mile of level stretches like Middletown itself. 

"We had a fine day yesterday,"" exclaimed an elderly pillar of 
a prominent church, by way of Monday morning greeting. "We 
left home at five in the morning. By seven we swept into . At 

i^Over against these appeals the Sunday of 1890 with its fewer alterna- 
tives should be borne in mind : as a Middletown plumber described it, 
‘There wasn’t anything to do but go to church or a saloon or walk uptown 
and look in the shop windows. You'd go about hunting saloons that were 
open, or maybe, if you were a hot sport, rent a rig for $1.50 for the after- 
noon and take your girl out riding." 



eight we had breakfast at ^ eighty miles from home. From 

there we went on to Lake , the longest in the state. I had 

never seen it before, and Fve lived here all my life, but I sure 
do want to go again. Then we went to — [the Y.M.C.A. camp] 
and had our chicken dinner. It’s a line thing for people to get out 
fhat way on Sundays. No question about it. They see dibEerent 
things and get a larger outlook.’^ 

‘‘Did you miss church ?” he was asked. 

“Yes, I did, but you can’t do both. I never missed church or 
Sunday School for thirteen years and I kind of feel as if I’d 
done my share. The ministers ought not to rail against people s 
driving on Sunday, They ought just to realize that they won t be 
there every Sunday during the summer, and make church interest- 
enough so they’ll want to come.” 

But if the automobile touches the rest of Middletown’s living 
at many points, it has revolutionized its leisure i more, perhaps, 
than the movies or any other intrusion new to Middletown 
since the nineties, it is making leisure-time enjoyment a regu- 
larly expected part of every day and week rather than an 
occasional event. The readily available leisure-time options of 
even the working class have been multiplied many-fold. As one 
working class housewife remarked, “We just go to lots of 
things we couldn’t go to if we didn’t have a car.” Beefsteak and 
watermdon picnics in a park or a near-by wood can be a matter 
of a moment’s decision on a hot afternoon. 

Not only has walking for pleasure become practically ex- 
tinct/® but the occasional event such as a parade on a holiday 
attracts far less attention now. 

“Lots of noise on the street preparing for the 4th,” reports the 
diary of a Middletown merchant on July 3, 1891. And on the 
4th: “The town full of people— grand parade with representa- 
tives of different trades, an ox roasted whole, four bands, fire- 

15 Sunday aftemcxDn motorists today report only an occasional anachronism 
of a person seen walking about town, A newcomer to Middletown remarked, 
“I was never in a city where people walk so little. They ride to work, to a 
picture show or to dances, even if they are going only a few blocks.” One 
business class woman says that her friends laugh at her for walking to club 
meetings or downtown. 

In the early nineties street car rides were somewhat of an event and 
'Volley parties” were popular. "Saturday afternoon out with ma and 
Trese car riding and walking,” writes the young baker in his diary, and a 
news note in Jime, 1890, states that "tickets for free street car ride were 
given out Sunday morning at the First Christian Church for Sunday School 


works, races, greased pig, dancing all day, etc.” An account in 
’93 reports : “Quite a stir in town. Firecrackers going off all night 
and all this day — ^big horse racing at the Fair Ground. Stores all 
closed this afternoon. Fireworks at the Fair Ground this eve- 

Today the week before the Fourth brings a pale edition of the 
earlier din, continuing until the night before. But the Fourth 
dawns quietly on an empty city ; Middletown has taken to the 
road. Memorial Day and Labor Day are likewise shorn of their 
earlier glory. 

Use of the automobile has apparently been influential in 
spreading the “vacation” habit. The custom of having each 
summer a respite, usually of two weeks, from getting-a-living 
activities, with pay unabated, is increasingly common among 
the business class, but it is as yet very uncommon among the 
workers.^® “Vacations in 1890?” echoed one substantial citizen. 
“Why, the word wasn’t in the dictionary!” “Executives of the 
1890 period never took a vacation,” said another man of a type 
common in Middletown thirty-five years ago, who used to an- 
nounce proudly that they had “not missed a day’s work in 
twenty years,” Vacations there were in the nineties, neverthe- 
less, particularly for the wives and children of those business 
folk who had most financial leeway. Put-In Bay, Chautauqua, 
country boarding-houses where the rates were $5.00 a week for 
adults and $3.00 for children, the annual conference^ of the 
State Baptist Association, the Annual National Christian En- 
deavor Convention, the annual G.A.R. encampment, all drew 
people from Middletown. But these affected almost entirely 
business class people. A check of the habits of the parents of 
the 124 working class wives shows that summer vacations were 
almost unknown among this large section of the population in 
the nineties. In lieu of vacations both for workers and many 
of the business class there were excursions: those crowded, 
grimy, exuberant, banana-smelling affairs on which one sat up 
nights in a day coach, or, if a “dude,” took a sleeper, from Sat- 

^®Not all of the business class are paid while on vacation, e.g., many 
retail clerks are not paid, but the custom is usual. , , » 

The growth of the vacation habit is reflected in the fact that the Woman s 
Club met with unabated vigor all through the summer in 1890. In 1900 it 
took the first vacation in its history for July and August. Commencing wim 
1914 it has closed earlier and earlier, and since 1919-20 has closed for the 
three months from June i. 



iirday till Monday morning, and went back to work a bit seedy 
from loss of sleep but full of the glamour of Petoskey, or the 
ball game at Chicago. Two hundred and twelve people from 
Middletown went to Chicago in one week-end on one such ex- 
cursion. One hundred and fifty journeyed to the state capital 
to the unveiling of a monument to an ex-governor — ^‘a 
stat^man,” as they called them in those days. Even train ex- 
cursions to towns fifteen, twenty, and forty miles away were 
great events, and people reported having ''seen the sights” of 
these other Middletowns with much enthusiasm. 

Today a few plants close for one or two weeks each sum- 
mer, allowing their workers an annual "vacation” without pay. 
Oth^ do not close down, but workers "can usually take not 
over two weeks off without pay and have their jobs back when 
they return.” Foremen in many plants get one or two weeks 
with pay. Of the 122 working class families giving information 
on this point, five families took one week off in 1923 and again 
in 1924, seven others took something over a week in each year, 
twelve took a week or more in only one of the two years. 
No others had as extensive vacations as these twenty-four, 
although other entire families took less than a week in one or 
both years, and in other cases some members of the families 
took vacations of varying lengths. Of the 100 families for 
whom income distribution was secured, thirty-four reported 
mon^ spent on vacations; the amounts ranged from $1.49 to 
$175.00, averaging $24.12. 

But even short trips are still beyond the horizon of many 
workers^ families, as such comments as the following show : 

"We haven’t had a vacation in five years. He got a day off to 
paint the house, and another year they gave him two hours off 
to get the deed to the house signed.” 

"Never had a vacation in my life, honey !” 

"Can’t afford one this year because we’re repairing the house.” 

"I don’t know what a vacation is — ^I haven’t had one for so 

"We like to get out in the car each week for half a day but 
can’t afford a longer vacation.” 

But the automobile is extending the radius of those who are 
allowed vacations with pay and is putting short trips within 


the reach of some for whom such vacations are still “not in 
the dictionary.” 

“The only vacation we’ve had in twenty years was three days 
we took off last year to go to Benton Harbor with my brother-in- 
law,” said one woman, proudly recounting her trip. “We had two 
Fords. The women slept in the cars, the men on boards between 
the two running boards. Here’s a picture of the two cars, taken 
just as the sun was coming up. See the shadows? And there’s a 
hill back of them.” 

Like the automobile, the motion picture is more to Middle- 
town than simply a new way of doing an old thing; it has 
added new dimensions to the city’s leisure. To be sure, the 
spectacle-watching habit was strong upon Middletown in the 
nineties. Whenever they had a chance people turned out to a 
“show,” but chances were relatively fewer. Fourteen times dur- 
ing January, 1890, for instance, the Opera House was opened 
for performances ranging from Uncle Tom’s Cabin to The 
Black Crook, before the paper announced that “there will not Iw 
any more attractions at the Opera House for nearly two weeks.” 
In July there were no “attractions”; a half dozen were scat- 
tered through August and September; there were twelve in 

Today nine motion picture theaters operate from i to 1 1 
p.M. seven days a week summer and winter; four of the nine 
give three different programs a week, the other five having two 
a week; thus twenty-two different programs with a total of over 
300 performances are available to Middletown every wedc in 
the year. In addition, during January, 1923, there were three 
plays in Middletown and four motion pictures in other plac« 
than the regular, theaters, in July three plays and one addi- 
tional movie, in October two plays and one movie. 

About two and three-fourths times the city's entire popula- 
tion attended the nine motion picture theaters during the month 
of July, 1923, the “valley” month of the year, and four and 
one-half times the total population in the “peak” month of De- 
cember.^® Of 395 boys and 457 girls in the three upper years 

Exact counts were made for only January, July, and October There 
were less than. 125 performances, including matinees, for the entire y^r. 

These figures are rough estimates based upon the following data : The 
total Federal amusement tax paid by Middletown theaters in July was 
$3,002.04 and in December $4,781.47. The average tax paid per admission 



of the high school who stated how many times they had at- 
tended the movies in ‘‘the last seven days/’ a characteristic 
week in mid-November, 30 per cent, of the boys and 39 per 
cent of the girls had not attended, 31 and 29 per cent, respec- 
tively had been only once, 22 and 21 per cent, respectively 
two times, 10 and 7 per cent, three times, and 7 and 4 per cent, 
four or more times. According to the housewives interviewed 
r^arding the custom in their own families, in three of the 
forty business class families interviewed and in thirty-eight of 
the 122 working class families no member “goes at all” to the 
movies.^® One family in ten in each group goes as an entire 
family once a week or oftener; the two parents go together 
without their children once a week or oftener in four business 
class families (one in ten), and in two working class families 
(one in sixty) ; in fifteen business class families and in thirty- 
eight working class families the children were said by their 
members to go without their parents one or more times weekly. 

In short, the frequency of movie attendance of high school 
boys and girls is about equal, business class families tend to 
go more often than do working class families, and children of 
both groups attend more often without their parents than do all 

is about $0.0325, and the population in 1923 about 38,000. Attendance esti- 
mates secured in this way were raised by one-sixth to account for children 
under twelve who are tax-free. The proprietor of three representative 
houses said that he had seven admissions over twelve years to one aged 
twelve or less, and the proprietor of another house drawing many children 
has four over twelve to one aged twelve or less. 

These attendance figures include, however, farmers and others from out- 
lying districts- 

^®The question was asked in terms of frequency of attendance “in an 
average month” and was checked in each case by attendance during the 
month just past. 

Lack of money and young children needing care in the home are 
probably two factors influencing these families that do not attend at all ; 
of the forty-one working class families in which all the children are twelve 
years or under, eighteen never go to the movies, while of the eighty-one 
working class families in which one or more of the children is twelve or 
older, only twenty reported that no member of the family ever attends. 

/I haven’t been an3rw'here in two years,” said a working class wife of 
thirty-three, the mother of six children, the youngest twenty months. “I 

went to the movies once two years ago. I was over to see Mrs. and she 

says,^ ‘Come on, let’s go to the movies.’ I didn’t believe her. She is always 
ragging the men and I thought she was joking. ‘Come on,’ she says, ‘put your 
things on and we’ll see a show.’ I thought, well, if she wanted to rag the 
men, I’d help her, so I got up and put my things on. And, you know, she 
really meant it. She paid my carfare uptown and paid my way into the 
movies. I was never so surprised in my life. I haven’t been anywhere since.” 


the individuals or other combinations of family members put 
together. The decentralizing tendency of the movies upon the 
family, suggested by this last, is further indicated by the fact 
that only 21 per cent, of 337 boys and 33 per cent, of 423 girls 
in the three upper years of the high school go to the movies 
more often with their parents than without them. On the other 
hand, the comment is frequently heard in Middletown that 
movies have cut into lodge attendance, and it is probable that 
time formerly spent in lodges, saloons, and unions is now being 
spent in part at the movies, at least occasionally with other 
members of the family. Like the automobile and radio, the 
movies, by breaking up leisure time into an individual, family, 
or small group affair, represent a counter movement to the 
trend toward organization so marked in clubs and other leisure- 
time pursuits. 

How is life being quickened by the movies for the young- 
sters who bulk so large in the audiences, for the punch press 
operator at the end of his working day, for the wife who goes 
to a “picture” every week or so “while he stays home with the 
children,” for those business class families who habitually at- 

“Go to a motion picture . . . and let yourself go,” Middletown 
reads in a Saturday Evening Post advertisement. “Before you 
know it you are living the story — ^laughing, loving, hating, strug- 
gling, winning ! All the adventure, all the romance, all the excite- 
ment you lack in your daily life are in Pictures. They take 

you completely out of yourself into a wonderful new world. . . . 
Out of the cage of everyday existence! If only for an afternoon 
or an evening — escape!” 

The program of the five cheaper houses is usually a “Wild 
West” feature, and a comedy; of the four better houses, 
one feature film, usually a “society” film but frequently Wild 
West or comedy, one short comedy, or if the feature is a 
comedy, an educational film (e.g., Laying an Ocean Cable or 
Making a Telephone), and a news film. In-general, people do 
not go to the movies to be instructed; the Yale Press series of 
historical films, as noted earlier, were a flat failure and the 
local exhibitor discontinued them after the second picture, 

Cf. N. 10 above. ^ „ 

The ex-proprietor of one of the largest saloons in the city said, “The 
movies killed the saloon. They cut pur business in half overnight.” 



As in the case of the books it reads, comedy, heart interest, 
and adventure rompose the great bulk of what Middletown 
enjoys in the movies. Its heroes, according to the manager of 
the leading theater, are, in the order named, Harold Lloyd, 
comedian; Gloria Swanson, heroine in modern society films; 
Thomas Meighan, hero in modern society films ; Colleen Moore, 
ing^ue; Douglas Fairbanks, comedian and adventurer; Mary 
Pickford, ingenue; and Norma Talmadge, heroine in modem 
society films. Harold Lloyd comedies draw the largest crowds. 
“Middletown is amusement hungry,"’ says the opening sentence 
in a local editorial; at the comedies Middletown lives for an 
hour in a happy sophisticated make-believe world that leaves it, 
according to the advertisement of one film, “happily convinced 
that Life is very well worth living.” 

Next largest are the crowds which come to see the sensa- 
tional society films. The kind of vicarious living brought to 
Middletown by these films may be inferred from such titles 
as: ^"Alimony — brilliant men, beautiful jazz babies, champagne 
baths, midnight revels, petting parties in the purple dawn, all 
ending in one terrific smashing climax that makes you gasp” ; 
^'Married Flirts — Husbands: Do you flirt? Does your wife 
always know where you are? Are you faithful to your vows? 
Wives: What’s your hubby doing? Do you know? Do you 
worry? Watch out for Married Flirts/^ So fast do these flow 
across the silver screen that, e-g., at one time The Daring Years, 
Sinners in Silk, Women Who Give, and The Price She Paid 
were all running synchronously, and at another ^'Name the Man 
— ^a story of betrayed womanhood,” Rouged Lips, and The 
Queen of Sin?^ While Western “action” films and a million- 
dollar spectacle like The Covered Wagon or The Hunchback 
of Notre Dame draw heavy houses, and while managers lament 
that there are too few of the popular comedy films, it is the film 
with burning “heart interest,” that packs Middletown’s motion 
picture houses week after week. Young Middletown enters 
eagerly into the vivid experience of Flaming Youth: “neckers, 
petters, white kisses, red kisses, pleasure-mad daughters, sensa- 
tion-craving mothers, by an author who didn’t dare sign his 
name; the truth bold, naked, sensational” — ^so ran the press 

^^It happens frequently that the title overplays the element of "sex 
adventure” in a picture. On the other hand, films less luridly advertised 
frequently portray more “raw situations." 


advertisement — ^under the spell of the powerful conditioning 
medium of pictures presented with music and all possible 
heightening of the emotional content, and the added factor of 
sharing this experience with a “date” in a darkened room. 
Meanwhile, Down to the Sea in Ships, a costly spectacle of 
whaling adventure, failed at the leading theater “because,” the 
exhibitor explained, “the whale is really the hero in the film 
and there wasn’t enough %eart interest’ for the women.” 

Over against these spectacles which Middletown watches 
today stand the pale “sensations” of the nineties, when Sappho 
was the apogee of daring at the Opera House: ^'The Telephone 
Girl — Hurricane hits, breezy dialogue, gorgeous stage setting, 
dazzling dancing, spirited repartee, superb music, opulent cos- 
tumes,” Over the Garden Wall, Edith's Burglar, East Lynne, 
La Belle Maria, or Women's Revenge, The Convict's Daugh- 
ter, Joe, a Mountain Fairy, The Vagabond Heroine, Guilty 
Without Crime, The World Against Her (which the baker pro- 
nounced in his diary, “good, but too solemn”), Love Will Find 
a Way, Si, Plankard. These, it must be recalled, were the great 
days when Uncle Tom's Cabin, with “fifty men, women, and 
children, a pack of genuine bloodhounds, grandest street parade 
ever given, and two bands,” packed the Opera House to 

Actual changes of habits resulting from the week-after-wedc 
witnessing of these films can only be inferred. Young Middle- 
town is finding discussion of problems of mating in this new 
agency that boasts in large illustrated advertisements, “Girls! 
You will learn how to handle ’em!” and “Is it true that mar- 
riage kills love? If you want to know what love really means, 
its exquisite torture, its overwhelming raptures, see F 

“Sheiks and their ^shebas,’ ” according to the press account of 
the Sunday opening of one film, . . sat without a movement 
or a whisper through the presentation. ... It was a real exhibi- 
tion of love-making and the youths and maidens of [Middletown] 
who thought that they knew something about the art found that 
they still had a great deal to learn.” 

Some high school teachers are convinced that the movies are 
a powerful factor in bringing about the “early sophistication” 
of the young and the relaxing of social taboos. One working 
class mother frankly welcomes the movies as an aid in child* 



rearing, saying, "I send my daughter because a girl has to learn 
the ways of the world somehow and the movies are a good safe 
way,” The judge of the juvenile court lists the movies as one 
of the ^^big four” causes of local juvenile delinquency^^ be- 
lieving that the disregard of group mores by the young is defi- 
nitely related to the witnessing week after week of fictitious 
behavior sequences that habitually link the taking of long 
diances and the happy ending. While the community attempts 
to safeguard its schools from commercially intent private hands, 
this ix)werful new educational instrument, which has taken 
Middletown unawares, remains in the hands of a group of 
men — ^an ex-peanut-stand proprietor, an ex-bicycle racer and 
race promoter, and so on — ^whose primary concern is making 

Middletown in 1890 was not hesitant in criticizing poor 
shows at the Opera House. The ^'morning after” reviews of 
1890 bristle with frank adjectives : 'Their version of the play 
is incomplete. Their scenery Is limited to one drop. The women 
are ancient, the costumes dingy and old. Outside of a few 
specialties, the show was very 'bum.^ ” When Sappho struck 
town in 1900, the press roasted it roundly, concluding, "[Mid- 
dletown] has had enough of naughtiness of the stage. . . . 

Manager W will do well to fumigate his pretty playhouse 

before one of the dean, instructive, entertaining plays he has 
billed comes before the footlights.” The newspapers of today 
keep their hands off the movies, save for running free pub- 
lic!^ stories and cuts furnished by the exhibitors who adver- 

22 Cf. CI1.XI. 

Miriam Van Waters, referee of ^ the juvenile court of Los Angeles and 
author of Youth in Conflict, says in a review of Cyril Burt^s The Young 
Delinquent: “The cinema is recognized for what it is, the main source of 
excitement and of moral education for city children. Burt finds that only 
mental defectives take the movies seriously enough Jp imitate the criminal 
exploits portrayed therein, and only a small proportion of thefts can be 
traced to stealing to gain money for admittance. In no such direct way 
does the moving picture commonly demoralize youth. It is in the subtle 
way of picturing the^ standards of adult life, action and emotion, cheapen- 
ing, debasing, distorting adults until they appear in the eyes of the young 
people pe^tually bathed in a moral atmosphere of intrigue, jealousy, wild 
emotionalism, and cheap sentimentality. Burt realizes that these exhibitions 
stimulate children prematurely.” {The Survey, April 15, 1926.) 

23 One exhibitor in Middletown is a college-trained man interested in 
bringing “good films” to the city. He, like the others, however, is caught in 
She competitive game and matches his competitors’ sensational advertise- 


tise. Save for some efforts among certain of the women’s clubs 
to “clean up the movies” and the opposition of the Ministerial 
Association to “Sunday movies,” Middletown appears content 
in the main to take the movies at their face value — “a darned 
good show” — ^and largely disregard their educational or habit- 
forming aspects. 

Though less widely diffused as yet than automobile owning 
or movie attendance, the radio nevertheless is rapidly crowding 
its way in among the necessities in the family standard of liv- 
ing. Not the least remarkable feature of this new invention is 
its accessibility. Here skill and ingenuity can in part offset 
money as an open sesame to swift sharing of the enjoyments of 
the wealthy. With but little equipment one can call the life of 
the rest of the world from thd air, and this equipment can be 
purchased piecemeal at the ten-cent store. Far from being 
simply one more means of passive enjo)nnent, the radio has 
given rise to much ingenious manipulative activity. In a count 
of representative sections of Middletown, it was found that, 
of 303 homes in twenty-eight blocks in the “best section” of 
town, inhabited almost entirely by the business class, 12 per 
cent, had radios; of 518 workers’ homes in sixty-four blocks, 
6 per cent, had radios.^^ 

As this new tool is rolling back the horizons of Middletown 
for the bank clerk or the mechanic sitting at home and listen- 
ing to a Philharmonic concert or a sermon by Dr. Fosdick, or 
to President Coolidge bidding his father good night on the 
eve of election,^® and as it is wedging its way with the movie, 
the automobile, and other new tools into the twisted mass of 
habits that are living for the 38,000 people of Middletown, 

2^ Both percentages have undoubtedly increased notably since 1924, when 
the counts were made. 

25 In 1890 the local press spoke of an occasional citizen’s visiting "Paris,. 
France,” and "London, England,” and even in 1924 a note in one of the 
papers recording the accident of some Middletown people finding themselves 
in a box at a New York theater with a group of Englishmen was cap- 
tioned "Lucky they weren’t Chinese !” The rest of the world is still a long 
way from Middletown, but movies and radio are doing much to break down 
this isolation: "I’ve got 12a stations on my radio,” gleefully announced a 
local working man. Meanwhile, the president of the Radio Corporation of 
America proclaims an era at hand when "the oldest and newest civilizations 
will throb together at the same intellectual appeal, and to the same artistic 



readjustments necessarily occur. Such comments as the follow- 
ing suggest their nature : 

use time evenings listening in that I used to spend in read- 


“The radio is hurting movie going, especially Sunday evening.” 
(From a leading movie exhibitor.) 

“I don’t use my car so much any more. The heavy traffic makes 
it less fun. But I spend seven nights a week on my radio. We hear 
fine music from Boston.” (From a shabby man of fifty.) 

“Sundays I take the boy to Sunday School and come straight 
home and tune in. I get first an eastern service, then a Cincin- 
nati one. Then there’s nothing doing till about two-thirty, when I 
pick up an eastern service again and follow ’em across the coun- 
try till I wind up with California about ten-thirty. Last night I 
beard a ripping sermon from Westminster Church somewhere in 
CaEfomia. We’ve no preachers here that can compare with any 
of them.” 

“One of the bad features of radio,” according to a teacher, “is 
that children stay up late at night and are not fit for school next 

“We’ve spent close on to $100 on our radio, and we built it 
ourselves at that,” commented one of the worker’s wives. 
“Where’d we get the money? Oh, out of our savings, like every- 
body else.” 

In the flux of competing habits that are oscillating the mem- 
bers of the family now towards and now away from the home, 
radio occupies an intermediate position. Twenty-five per cent, 
of 337 high school boys and 22 per cent, of 423 high school 
girls said that they listen more often to the radio with their 
parents than without them,^® and, as pointed out above, 20 per 
cent, of 274 boys in the three upper years of the high school 
answered “radio” to the question, “In what thing that you are 
doing at home this fall are you most interested?” — ^more than 
gave any other answer.*^ More than one mother said that her 
f amil y used to Scatter in the evening — ^“but now we all sit 
around and listen to the radio.” 

Likewise the place of the radio in relation to Middletown’s 

Cf. M. 10 above. 

27 Lei l than i per cent, of the 341 girls answered “radio.” 



other leisure habits is not wholly clear. As it becomes more per- 
fected, cheaper, and a more accepted part of life, it may cease 
to call forth so much active, constructive ingenuity and become 
one more form of passive enjo3mient. Doubtless it will con- 
tinue to play a mighty role in lifting Middletown out of the 
humdrum of every day; it is beginning to take over that func- 
tion of the great political rallies or the trips by the trainload to 
the state capital to hear a noted speaker or to see a monument 
dedicated that a generation ago helped to set the average man 
in a wide place. But it seems not unlikely that, while furnishing 
a new means of diversified enjoyment, it will at the same time 
operate, with national advertising, syndicated newspapers, and 
other means of large-scale diffusion, as yet another means of 
standardizing many of Middletown’s habits. Indeed, at no point 
is one brought up more sharply against the impossibility of 
studying Middletown as a self-contained, self-starting com- 
munity than when one watches these space-binding leisure-time 
inventions imported from without — ^automobile, motion pic- 
ture, and radio — reshaping the city. 

Chapter XIX 


In the main these leisure activities are carried on by ^ople 
in groups rather than singly; one plays with one's family or 
friends. At the same time that the family is declining as a unit 
of leisure-time pursuits, the basis of other associations is shift- 
ing; many of the earlier informal ties are being displaced by 
more rigid lines of union and demarcation. 

Only one of the thirty-eight wives of business men who gave 
information on this point said that she had no friends what- 
ever in Middletown, as against fifteen of the ii8 wives of the 
working class ; of the former group an additional four said that 
they had no ‘"intimate" friends but only ‘"casual" acquaintances, 
as against an additional twenty-five of the latter — ^making a 
total of one in eight of this business group and one in three of 
the working class who had either no friends at all in Middle- 
town or no intimate friends. This degree of social isolation in 
the case of a third of the women of the dominant numerical 
group may be expected to have wide implications. 

Such answers as the following are characteristic of the forty 
of the ii8 workers* wives who had no friends or no intimate 
friends : 

“It doesn’t pay to be too friendly." 

“I never chum with any one ; it’s dangerous." 

"T have no best friends. In town you never know who is your 

“Even your best friend will do you dirt. I never run around 
with people. I let every one alone." 

‘T haven’t any friends in the city. I see plenty of people at 
church and clubs, but I treat them all alike." 

“Our neighbors used to be good friends and we had lots of 
good times together, but in the last seven or eight years all that’s 
gone. People don’t pay much attention to each other any more." 



‘T don’t even know the names of the people next door and we 
have lived here a year.” 

Among the wives of the group of business men interviewed, the 
isolation is not so marked, possibly in part because these people 
have moved about somewhat less,^ and partly, no doubt, due to 
their more extensively developed system of social clubs. Here, 
too, however, there is indication of shallowing friendships in 
such remarks as : 

“I haven’t many intimate friends. There is really only one per- 
son in town whom I regard as a really close friend.” 

"I have no intimate friends ; it is difficult and too involving to 
become intimate with anybody but a few close relatives.” 

“We’ve let all our friends slip away as our children have taken 
up more and more of our time.” 

“I have no intimate friends. I just haven’t had time for friends 
while I’ve been bringing up my children.” 

Vicinage plays a part in the forming of friendships, but, 
although living “next door” or “on the same block” still oper- 
ates prominently among the working class, it appears to be 
less controlling among the business class than a generation ago. 
Eighty-nine (more than half) of the 173 “best friends” of the 
present working class wives and seventy-three (nearly two- 
thirds) of 1 16 friends of their mothers were reported to have 
been met first “around the neighborhood” ; while seven of the 
seventy-five friends of the business group and twenty-five 
of their mothers’ seventy-one friends were said to have been 
met in the “neighborhood.” More than_ two-thirds of the best 
friends of the mothers of both working class and business 
class wives interviewed were said to have lived within six 
blocks of them, while slightly over one-half of the best friends 
of the present generation of working class wives and less than 
one in five of the best friends of the business class women in- 
terviewed live within six blocks of them.^ Friends living eleven 

^ Cf di 

2 Nearly' a fifth of the best friends of the present working dass women 
live on the same block with them, as against only two friends m the case 

of the business class. . , a. r • j 

Each housewife was asked to report regarding her two best friends, but 
in cases where the women said they had no friends or no close friends they 



or more blocks distant were again almost identically infrequent 
in the case of the mothers of both groups — less than one in five 
in each case; today, however, more than a third of the best 
friends of working men's wives and nearly two-thirds of those 
of this business group live eleven blocks or more away. 

The neighborhood appears likewise to have declined as a 
place of most constant association of friends.® According to 
almost tmiversal working class testimony: 

‘"Neighbors used to be in each other's houses much more than 
they are now.” 

“Mother couldn't understand when she came to live with us 
why people didn’t run in more and neighbor as they used to.” 

“We ain’t got neighbors any more. People ain’t so friendly as 
they used to be. There’s less neighborhood visiting. You have to 
go places to see them.” 

“My friends and I see each other most at each other’s houses 
and at the five-and-ten-cent store — ^generally when we go to the 
store. If you go to people’s houses you aren’t sure you’re wel- 

Women of the business class were even more emphatic : 

“I like this new way of living in a neighborhood where you can 
le friendly with people but not intimate and dependent.” 

“People used to have more neighbors and every one else knew 
what you were doing and commented on it. I Hke it much better 

rei>orted on the one or two acquaintances whom they saw most frequently. 
The same procedure was followed in the case of their mothers. 

Data of this sort based upon small groups must be regarded as sug- 
gestive only. _ . . * . . 

® The closeness of Middletown to its farm background is important in this 
connection. In his study of T/ie Rural Primary Groups and Their Discovery 
in Wisconsin, J. H. Kolb speaks of this break-up of ‘"neighboring”: "‘The 
people who made these groups fifty years ago surely knew what it was to 
have a group social life. . . . The group bonds were strong of necessity 
because of the type of life which the settlers led. There was the visiting of 
neighbors. Complaint was often heard that now with the good roads and 
automobiles, less ‘neighboring* was done. ‘The young people go miles away/ 
some one said, ‘but fail to get well acquainted with those near by.’” {Wis- 
consin Research Bulletin 51, December, 1921, p. 28.) 

Cf. the decline of the habit, common in Middletown a generation ago, as 
noted in Ch.^ VII, for workers in a given plant to live together close about 
the factory in which they work, with their other major life-activities inter- 
lacing back and forth. 



as things are now, when you can be independent and do things 
without thinking what others are going to say about it/^ 

“My friends and I don’t go back and forth to each other’s 
houses much except for definite social engagements. Then, too, 
the old-time call with cards and white kid gloves has completely 
gone out. No one ever comes to call.” 

“Clubs have done away with calling. They have spoiled that 
old spirit of friendliness. People used to call on a bride just after 
she was married and she would go promptly with her mother to 
return the calls. There were calls when some one had died and 
church people always called on a new person in the neighbor- 

“People just don’t call in Middletown. I have lived here four 
years and I have had practically no calls.” 

“I don’t see my friends at all. That is really true — I never see 
them unless I run into them somewhere occasionally or they come 
over to dinner. It was different with my mother. She and her 
friends were always in each other’s homes.” 

“I do very little visiting — ^mostly keep in touch with my 
friends by telephone.” ^ 

Like the neighborhood, the church is one of the recognized 
agencies acquainting members of the community with each 
other. ^‘Affiliate yourself with some church if you want to get 
acquainted,” newcomers to Middletown are told. ‘^Our first 
winter when we were so lonely we met people through the 
church,” said more than one woman.® Forty-four of the 173 

^ The attenuation of visiting to telephone visiting is one of the phenomena 
that has appeared since 1890. A worker who had been injured in an indus- 
trial accident complained, “Radios and telephones make people farther 
apart. Instead of going to see a person as folks used to, you just telephone 
nowadays.” A woman living in one of the larger homes of the city, when 
asked where she sees her best friend, replied, T do a great deal of 
telephone visiting and then I see her at evening parties,” In 1890 there was 
much “dropping in,” a ritual that frequently extended from the original 
intention of a simple errand to a leisurely half -morning’s visit : “When the 
’phone came,” according to another business class woman, “it took up a lot 
of time, since you were within reach of so many more people, but it saved 
all the time formerly spent with women who ‘ran in’ on you while you 
were t^ing to do your morning’s work.” 

®It is not unusual to hear such an erstwhile stranger add, “But these 
I>eople aren’t our best friends-^now.” According to local testimony, the 
tendency to employ the church’s social function instrumentally is growing, 
and it is more common today than formerly for strangers deliberately to 



friends of the working class women interviewed and sixteen of 
the sev^ity-five friends of the business class women were said 
to have been met first either at church or at church and some 
other jdace at about the same time. Thereafter, the church, or 
the church linked with some other agency, was the most fre- 
quent place of seeing fifty of these friends in the case of the 
working class and eleven in the case of the business class.® 
Women of both groups said that their mothers saw their 
friends much more frequently at church, though they did not 
give detailed information on this point. 

^ But if the neighborhood and the church appear to have 
declined somewhat as bases of association, organized club groups 
appear from the very rough data available to have become 
more important. Clubs figure as a most constant place of meet- 
ing with ten of the 173 friends of the working class group 
interviewed, as against two of 116 friends of their mothers, 
and with twenty-six of the seventy-five friends of the business 
class wives interviewed as against six of seventy-one friends 
of their mothers. 

Turning from the women of Middletown to their husbands, 
s<^ewhat similar rough trends appear.’' The church furnishes 
a place of most constant meeting of friends among the 
business men on whom data were secured in the case of but one 
man out of a total of thirty-eight — and even then it is linked 
with a civic club ; among the men of the working class group, 
eleven out of a total of ninety-nine friends are said to be seen 
most often in church. Lodges exhibit about the same relative 
frequency as churches for both classes, affording a most fre- 
quent place of meeting for none of the business group, but for 
eleven of the friends of the working class; and on the other 

“shop abouf ’ among leading churches, appraising congregations as well as 

On the other hand barriers are appearing within business class congre- 
gations; a rather plain young couple, members of a large, fashionable 
church, complained of the coldness of Middletown: “It’s a hard town to 
get acquainted in,” said the young wife. “I go to the church Flower 
Mission and other meetings and my husband to the Men’s Club, but the 
people you see there don’t see much of you outside.” 

®If only those answers stating “church” alone (including “church work” 
and “Sunday School”) be included, these last figures drop to thirty-seven 
and three respectively. 

^ These data on the basis of men’s associations must be handled even more 
tentatively than those on their wives; not only are samples small, but data 
are second-hand in nearly all cases, i.e., secured from the wives. 



hand clubs other than lodges were not once mentioned for the 
working class, while they account for the most constant places 
of meeting in the case of twelve of the thirty-eight friends of 
this business group. 

One gains an impression that the women, especially those of 
the business class, actively cultivate friendships more than do 
the men. In fact, as pointed out in an earlier chapter, this social 
contact activity of the female partner in marriage is increas- 
ingly prominent today. One business class woman described a 
common situation when she said, ^^Most of my husband’s 
friends are the husbands of my friends. I met the women 
through my club and he met their husbands through me.” An- 
other prevailing aspect of men’s friendships was pointed out in 
the remark, ^'My husband has so many acquaintances that he 
has time for few friends. It’s a modern tendency, I guess. Re- 
lationships are more artificial since people don’t drop in as 
they used to.” Among the working class, the isolated man is 
apparently more common than formerly, as the decline of 
unions and lodges as social agencies, the disappearance of the 
comer saloon,® greater mobility, and similar factors have com- 
bined to scatter the working personnel of a given factory, and 
no new organizations such as the business class civic clubs have 
arisen. Such statements as the following by some of the work- 
ing class wives interviewed appear to represent a considerable 
group : 

^^He don’t go to the lodge any more. The picture show has 
killed the lodge. He just stays home and don’t see any one.” 

""He liked the man who lived next to us, but he’s only seen him 
on the street once since we moved.” 

""He just sees the men at work. He don’t go to the lodge any 
more. The auto has ruined the lodges and ever3^hing else.” 

""He says he’s just a lone wolf.” 

s Drinking as a convivial acti^ty has not been common among the busi- 
ness men of Middletown since the coming of prohibition, due largely 
apparently to the abstinence of a group of men powerful in the industrial, 
social, and civic life both in 1890 and today. Among the workers the aboli- 
tion of the saloon has removed a place of frequent association with their 
fellows, which is only in part taken by the “speak-easies.*' There were forty 
saloons in Middletown in November, 1891. 

It is a shortcoming of this study that it did not consider^ more directly 
the drinking habits of Middletown before and after the coming of Federal 



Never was there more pressure in the business world for 
solidarity, conformity, and wide personal acquaintance than 
exists tCK^y under the current credit economy. But among the 
working class certain factors operate to make more tolerable 
than formerly the position of the '‘queer cuss’’ or the “lone 
dog” : no particular expression of sociability is necessary for 
or evoked by operating a machine; if the position of the indi- 
vidual tool-worker has become more precarious as he has been 
increasingly reduced to the status of one of the plant’s raw 
materials, his isolation is being compensated for at certain new 
points. Workmen’s compensation steps in when he is hurt 
in getting his living, the Visiting Nurses’ Association may 
replace the neighbors who “run in to help” when his wife has 
a baby, life insurance may be provided by his employers or 
is available on easy weekly terms through the agent at the door, 
and such new inventions as the movie, the automobile, the 
radio, make him less dependent upon his friends in his leisure. 
It will not be surprising if we find the worker’s leisure time less 
closely organized than that of the business man. But his increas- 
ing isolation and a rising standard of living fostered by the 
habit of leaning the present against the future through time 
payments are constantly exposing the worker at new points 
more rapidly than the organized agencies bolstering him in his 
emergencies can develop ; the lone-wolf worker in Middletown 
has his flanks somewhat protected, but he follows a precarious 

Somewhat less informal than the chance associations grow- 
ing out of neighborhood and church, are parties, which bring 
a certain group together for a single occasion. The leading daily 
paper in Middletown in 1923 reported for the months of Janu- 
ary, July, and October respectively eighty-two, 104, and 155 
parties of all kinds, including picnics, dinner parties, and so on, 
as over against eight, thirty-one, and fourteen in the corre- 
sponding three months in 1890. While the population has in- 
creased a little less than three and one-half fold, the parties 
reported in January and October increased over tenfold each, 
while in July the increase was a little less than three and one-half 
fold.® The relatively greater number of parties represents prob- 

® Stich press reports are a dubious source for statistically usable data, 
but the attention paid to '‘personals*' in the press of the smaller Middle- 



ably not so much an increase in occasions for association as 
greater organization and formality. ‘‘People used just to drop 
over in the evening/' as one working class wife put it, “but now 
they invite them 'way ahead of the date and make a party 
of it." 

The prominence of the informal “dropping in" type of social, 
contacts in 1890 is reflected in the day-by-day diary of the 
young baker for the years 1888-95. Four, five, and six evenings 
a week the items run as follows : 


“I picked up the bunch. Went to H and I set up ice 

cream for the crowd. Then we all took a ride round town on the 

street-cars. Stopped in at F ’s awhile, then meandered to 

K 's awhile, then home." 

“Last night I got K and we went to church. Then picked 

up a crowd of fourteen and all went down to the glass factory to 
watch glass blown. Back uptown at ten and all got ice cream. 

Stopped in at N 's ; gang stayed there and I took my two 

girls home. Had an elegant evening." 

“Bunch over at M 's. Pulled candy and sang. Had a time !" 

“Ice cream social at church. Then to K 's. Set up a keg, 

Had a time !" 

Among the business class, social intercourse appears to have 
been scarcely more formal. 

The wider range of alternatives in Middletown today necessi- 
tates more organization; parties tend increasingly to center 
about a core of organized club groups — “pledge parties" of 
sororities, the Country Club Halloween party, the “husbands' 
dinner" of the SeW We Do Club.^® Even when not definitely a 
part of a club organization, parties, particularly among the 
business class, are not infrequently today given in some public 

town o£ the earlier day offsets somewhat the activity of the Sunday “society 
editor” of today. In fact, testimony of people who knew Middletown in both 
periods indicates that the parties of 1890 were as thoroughly covered as 
those of today. 

^0 The leading paper reported 127 parties given by clubs in Middletown 
between December ii, 1924, and January 3, 1925, as against ninety-four par- 
ties given by all other organizations and individuals, including churches, 
business or industrial units, small home affairs, and so forth. It is probable, 
however, that the more thorough reporting of club parties than of small or 
home parties and the special celebration of the Christmas season by the 
dubs affect this ratio. 

28 o 


or semi-public building outside of the home; a woman may 
entertain a table of guests for luncheon as part of a large 
Country Qub luncheon; or two women may hold a bridge 
party or reception in the ball room of a hotel or the parlors of 
the Elks’ Qub elaborately transformed for the occasion into a 
Japanese garden ; or four wives and husbands may jointly en- 
tertain a dozen mutual friends at dinner at a hotel or the Elks’ 
Qub and then repair to one of their homes for an evening of 

Accompanying this incipient decline in home parties is the 
almost total disappearance of whole-family parties before the 
specialized parties for each age group and the self-sufficient 
social system of the high school. Almost unknown today is 
such a list of guests as appeared frequently in the papers of the 
nineties : 

“Among the many present at the surprise party were Grandma 

Walker, Mrs. C. P and family, S. C and family, John 

W and family, Isaac B and family, James W and 

family and S. H and family.” 

Likewise the home-made entertainment that enlivened the more 
spontaneous parties of the nineties is tending to narrow, espe- 
cially among the business group, to a few correct variants. Such 
an occasion as the following reported in the i8go paper would 
hardly be so acceptable as a party in these days of movies, danc- 
ing at a near-by resort to “the finest jazz orchestra in the 
state,” and the ever-vocal radio : 

“A pleasant surprise was held last night at the elegant resi- 
dence of Oliver J in honor of the fortieth anniversary of the 

birth of Mrs. Ella J . Besides the neighbors and friends to the 

number of forty, ihere were present . . . Every face was beam- 
ing with delight, and happiness flowed from heart to heart. . . . 
After dinner a season of song and prayer was had, after which 

the house was made to ring with music. . . . Mr. McC 

favored us with a song, A Thousand Years My Own Columbia 

Nor would a Young Ladies’ Cooking Qub composed of “our 
young social leaders” entertain their friends by “thirteen 
tableaux” followed by a sumptuous dinner cooked by their own 
hands and a recitation of ^'Curfew Shall Not Ring T onight in a 
most pleasing manner.” Nor would a surprise party of six 



leading citizens and their wives meet ^^at a near-by house/^ hold 
‘"a council of war until their proposed victims had retired for 
the night, when with an abundance of "taffy’ sugar, all made a 

bold dash for Mr. C ^’s.” Gone, or nearly so among the 

business class, though to a far less extent among the working 
class, are such ""jolly affairs” as ""trolley parties,” '"progressive 
tiddledy-winks,” ""shoe socials” where one secured one’s part- 
ner by seeing her shoes under a sheet pinned up at the end of 
the room, ""lemon squeezes,” ""going to Jerusalem,” ""cobweb 
parties,” ""pin the tale on a mule,” conundrums, charades, eve- 
ings of ""euchre, whist, pedro, and crocono” or ""parchesi, 
authors, and checkers,” or evenings when ""all had a sing.” 
Waggish tricks do not form such a large part of an evening’s 
diversion. The young baker’s diary related every so often dur- 
ing the nineties, ""They went home with my hat,” or ""Attended 
a wake at ’s. Somebody hid my hat.” 

The growing rigidity of the social system today is centering 
parties more and more upon cards, pedro among the workers 
and bridge among the others.^^ Cards and dancing are the 
standard entertainment of Middletown. In general, dancing 
holds the position of preeminence with the younger group prior 
to marriage, while from marriage on the more sedentary ac- 
tivity predominates. In 1924 the sectional state conference of 
the numerically most powerful religious denomination in Mid- 
dletown renewed its traditional prohibition upon card playing, 
and in some of the more religious working class families the 
ban is still maintained not only upon cards but upon checkers 
and other games as well, but among the business group there 
are virtually no people who debar card playing.^^ The local press 

Mah jong- was a furious alternate to bridge for a while and then 

It must be borne in mind that in leisure-time pursuits as in so many other 
activities, the workers of Middletown still do many of the things the busi- 
ness group did a generation ago. Thus a men^s chorus of a church whose 
mem&rship is made up largely of working men gave a party in 1925 at 
which there was singing of sacred hymns, a long recitation in the rhetorical 
manner of 1890, a ^'humorous selection,’* “a few words from our pastor,” 
and copious food. 

The extent of the relaxing of the ban upon cards is witnessed by the 
maintenance by at least three of the local semi-religious, benevolent lodges 
of regular gambling at cards in their club-houses, a percentage of the win- 
nings going to the lodges for their charity. 

Playing cards on Sunday is still tabooed by many people, though less so 
than in 1890. 



reported thirty ^^card parties” for the three months of January, 
July, and October, 1923, with card playing a part at the enter- 
tainment of many others, as against only one for the corre- 
sponding months of 1890. This does not mean that cards were 
not played in 1890, but probably that they were not such an 
inevitable and formalized feature of social intercourse. 

Dancing is today a tmiversal skill among the young; their 
social life, particularly among the high school group, is in- 
creasingly built about it. The dance apparently held no such 
prominent place in the leisure activities of 1890. Dancing there 
was, to be sure : great balls by the policemen, cab-drivers, clerks, 
nail-makers, green glass workers, and other occupational 
groups — usually for charity; the grand ball of the Amalga- 
mated Association of Iron and Steel Workers in 1890 was pro- 
claimed “the largest event of its kind ever given in [Middle- 
town] or the Gas Belt, with 1,200-1,500 present.” Among the 
business class small dances in fashionable homes on New Year’s 
Eve and other holidays were not uncommon ; this group, more- 
over, patronized Professor Daisy’s fortnightly dancing lessons 
at the skating rink, culminating in a “ball and German with 
fifty society couples and seventy-five spectators, the latter 
watching with interest the fancy dancing, heel and toe polka, 
then the German.” But dances were not mentioned in the lead- 
ing paper in January or July, 1890, and were mentioned only 
five times in October, as against ten times in January, 1923, 
twenty-two times in July, and twenty-four times in October. 
More significant of the shift is the fact that the leading fash- 
ionable young men’s social club of 1890 gave parties but no 
dances. Not until 1900 does the press speak of dancing as a 
“local craze.” 

Today the social pace is set for the unmarried group by the 
elaborate formality of club, fraternity, and sorority dances in 
hotels, each costing $I50-$300 and involving keen rivalry in 
decorations, music, partners, dress, and number of invitations. 
These reach chiefly the business group but tend to include a 
wider range as high school attendance grows. The old round of 
informal Christmas holiday pleasantries has been largely 
crowded out by a rigid ritual of fourteen annual formal dances ; 
the principal public celebration of Thanksgiving Day consists 
in three dances — an annual matinee dance by one of the frater- 
nities and two evening dances. High school commencement no 


longer means the program of essays, the solitary ball and 
faculty-student party of the nineties, but a dizzy week of junior- 
senior dance, '‘a fitting climax to the social affairs of the 
junior class” ; senior formal dance, '*one of the most elaborate 
affairs of the season”; banquets, picnics, and receptions — ^all 
carefully planned in April, two months before the events. 

Among the working class home dances, like those of the 
business class thirty-five years ago, still survive, though the 
better music of public dance halls has greater attraction. So 
exacting has the public taste in dance music become that a 
local church was forced to abandon the effort to hold dances 
in its parish house ^'because the young people demanded better 
music than we could afford.” Such new customs as the replace- 
ment of boys’ and girls’ walking to and from dances in a crowd 
by the almost universal custom of going by couples in an auto- 
mobile, and the disappearance of "‘odd” girls at dances, the 
pairing off of boys and girls being emphasized by the full press 
reports of those who attend by couples, tend to emphasize the 
rigidity of the social ritual of the dance.^^ 

Just as the unorganized social associations of the neighbor- 
hood in 1890 have given way increasingly to semi-organized 
dances and clubs, so the more active leisure-time pursuits in- 
volving physical exertion in various sports exhibit a similar re/ 
cession of the unorganized before the organized. Few people 
today walk for pleasure in Middletown, the river is now too 
polluted for fishing, and the small boys of the city are wont to 
call out in a disgusted tone to a stray bicycler, "‘Aw, why don’t 
you buy a machine!” Instead of these unorganized, one-man 
types of physical recreation, the city affords facilities for or- 
ganized sport undreamed of in 1890: Y.M.CA., Y.W.C.A., 
high school g3nnnasium, municipal golf course and Country 
Club course, and grade school, high school, factory, lodge, and 
Y.M.C.A. leagues in various sports. The sporadic factory 

It shoutd be noted in passing, particularly in view of the fact that nine 
of the fourteen formal Christmas dances are given by girls, that the dance 
has apparently, whether consciously or not, been seized upon by the unmar- 
ried girls as a device whereby the newer aggressiveness of the females can 
assume overt form despite the persistence of the male ban upon it. The extent 
to which these dances exist as an appendage of the mating ritual of the 
younger set is reflected in the frank remark of a popular high school senior 
girl, “The girls in each club are awfully catty about the extra invitations to 
their club dances they are allowed, and it's sure some test of a girl's popu- 
larity if she gets invited to all nine of the girls' formal Christmas dances." 



base ball teams of the nineties represent one of the few fore- 
runners of the present tendency. 

Organized sports appear, from a brief check, to exhibit a 
greater increase since 1890 in the relative amount of news space 
devoted to them in the Middletown press than any other depart- 
ment of news — from 4 per cent, of the total news content of the 
leading paper in 1890 to 16 per cent, in 1923.^^ For the three 
sample months of January, July, and October, 1923? the lead- 
ing paper mentioned i^, seventy, and ninety-eight organized 
and unorganized sporting or athletic events in the city, as 
against six, fifteen, and seven for the corresponding months of 

The athletic activity of the city today culminates in basket- 
ball in the high school. The high schools of the entire state are 
organized into a state-wide league involving each year “region- 
als,” “sectionals,” and “finals,” during which the city’s civic 
pride is deeply involved : leading citizens give “ ‘Bearcat’ par- 
ties” prior to attending the final games, hundreds of people 
unable to secure tickets stand in the street cheering a score 
board, classes are virtually suspended in the high school, and 
the children who are unable to go to the state capital to see 
the game meet in the school in a chapel service of cheers and 
songs and sometimes prayers for victory. In the series of games 
leading up to the “finals” the city turns out week after week 
to fill to the doors the largest auditoritun available.^® In con- 

1** See Table XXIII. Counts could be made only of one representative 
week — ^the first week in March — for both periods. Counts based upon such 
a short period must obviously be used only tentatively. 

These figures apparently represent increases both in actual participa- 
tion in sports and in occasions for watching others play. To a certain extent 
they are misleading in that they do not include the extensive unorganized 
'Vacant lot” sports of 1890, but on the other hand they do not include much 
of the day-by-day activity for men and boys at the Y.M.C.A. in 1923. The 
heavy increase in organized sports is shown by the following distribution 
of sports mentioned for the month of October in each year : 18^, three com- 
petitive shoots by the local gun club with clubs from other towns, two 
fishing trips, and two announcements of hunting trips. 1923, three baseball 
games, seventy-three bowling matches, three basket-ball games, three weekly 
shoots by the gun club, four golf tournaments, nine football games, one 
bicycling party, one prize fight, one Y.M.C.A. track meet. 

Basket-ball sweeps all before it. Witness the jubilant voting of the city 
council to spend $100,000 for a new gymnasium for the "Bearcats” at a 
time when the cry on all sides was for retrenchment in city expenditures 
and the public library was understafiFed because it could secure no assistant 
for less than $1,800 when a cut in its funds made only $1,500 available. The 
bond issue for the new gymnasium was finally overruled through appeal 


trast to this is the complete absence of high school athletic teams 
of any kind in 1890, noted in an earlier chapter. 

It is notably characteristic of this culture that active physical 
sports tend to drop off sharply among all classes after high 
school.^^ The automobile encourages this physical '"settling 
down,” while on the other hand the rise of golf, including the 
launching of a municipal course, hand-ball, and business men’s 
g3nnnasium classes at the Y.M.C.A., bowling alleys in cer- 
tain lodge buildings, and shorter working hours and Satur- 
day half-holidays, all pull in the opposite direction. Women, 
too, have begun to engage in athletic sports, though not so com- 
monly as men/® 

This trend toward greater organization appearing In so many 
leisure pursuits culminates in the proliferating system of clubs 
which touches the life of the city in all its major activities. A 
total of 458 active clubs was discovered in Middletown after an 
exhaustive canvass during the spring and summer of 1924, 

by a small and unpopular group of citizens to the state authorities having 
ultimate supervision over such fiscal matters. 

It is widely reported that “the chief thing that got [the new superin- 
iendent of schools, a young man elected after the preceding superintendent, 
a veteran school executive, was dropped for alleged political reasons] his 
job was that he put [Middletown] on the map as a basket-ball town.” 

1’' Gillin says of Cleveland, “In the course of the successive age periods 
conventional spare-time interests turn less and less to outdoor, athletic activ- 
ities; as people grow older their pursuits tend to diverge more and more 
from those forms which have been established in the history of the race. 
This is especially true of the activities of men. Their activities in the later 
periods follow the lead of the women’s, emphasizing the trend away from 
the more direct and simply organized and physically active pursuits.” John 
L. Gillin, Wholesome Citizens and Spare Time (Cleveland; Cleveland Recre- 
ation Survey, 1918), p. 18. 

There was considerable opposition from some older citizens to the 
proposal to put a swimming pool in the new Y.W.CA. building. 

A “doctor book” of the nineties warned the women of a generation ago 
against the current sedentary, indoor life of women, which “besides hurting 
their figure and complexion, relaxes their solids, weakens their minds, and 
disorders all the functions of the body,” But Marion Harland in her Talks 
upon Practical Subjects warns that “the fin de siecle girl and her bicycle 
have hardly been acquainted long enough for the passage of correct judg- 
ment upon the consequence of the intimacy.” 

The girls entering Vassar College in 1916-20 engaged in an average of 
9.2 sports, as against 2.0 for the incoming freshmen of 1896-1900; 0.6 per 
cent, of the former reported no sports at all, as against 26.5 per cent of the 
earlier girls. Mabel Newcomer, “Physical Development of Vassar College 
Students, 1884-1920” (^Quarterly Publication of the American Statistical 
Associationj New Series No. 136, Vol. XVII.) 



roughly one for each eighty people. This probably includes 
four-fifths of all active organized club groups. A canvass of 
the city of 1890, believed by the staff to be roughly as com- 
prehensive as the 1924 count, revealed ninety-two clubs, or one 
for every 125 people.^® While the city has grown less than 
three and one-half fold, adult social clubs have increased from 
twenty-one to 129, church adult social clubs from eight to loi, 
adult benevolent groups, trade unions, and the group of literary, 
artistic, and musical clubs have each doubled, business and 
professional groups have increased from one to nine, and civic 
clubs (most of them with a strong business flavor as well) from 
one to eleven. The current of organization has apparently run 
even more rapidly in the region of the more formal type of 
juvenile clubs, as national organizations such as the Boy 
Scouts and Girl Reserves have increased in Middletown from 
zero to ten groups, as the church has organized its children in 
the effort to hold them against outside competition, and as clubs 
have sprung up to sift the 1,600 high school students into the 
smaller groupings. Organized juvenile clubs of all kinds have 
increased from six (all church clubs) in 1890 to ninety-five, 
although obviously many transitory neighborhood '^clubs^' of 
children were omitted in the counts of both periods. 

Although there has been a growing tendency among the 
business dass to make club life serve other than recreational 
ends, notably those of getting a living, most Middletown dubs 
apparently offer people not an extension of their customary ac- 
tivities but a way of escape from them. The city is dotted with 
social dubs, chiefly women’s dubs, but in a limited number of 
cases including husbands as well: the Kill Kare Club, Jolly 
Eight, Best of All Club, Happy Twelve, Bitter Sweet Club, and 

See Table XVIII for distrib-ution of dubs by dasses in both periods. 

The number of formal and informal social groupings in the city is, of 
course, almost indefinite. Only those organizations which have a definite and 
regular social meeting monthly or oftener are included here as “clubs.” 
The figures given are based upon a careful count of clubs mentioned in the 
two leading papers in 1890 and in 1924 from January i to October i, checked 
and augmented by the city directories and by reports of individuals for 
both periods. The 1890 count was further supplemented by two diaries, one 
of a working man and one of a business man. Other informal sources of 
infomation were used for both periods. The chief types of dubs that are 
missing from these totals are certain informal neighborhood groups 
(luncheon, bridge, sewing, children’s clubs, etc.) that are not reported in the 
prps. The reporting in both periods appears, however, from all available 
evidence, to have been very comprehensive. 



so on. Here cards, games among the working class, music, or 
dancing, and always “refreshments' ' offer Middletown an 
alternation from routine duties of life. Among the business class 
the Country Club, bridge clubs, and so on, and, among the 
group from fifteen to thirty years of age, fraternities and sor- 
orities, tend to supplement or displace the smaller, less formal 
neighborhood gatherings of a generation ago.^^ 

The value which Middletown places upon education is re- 
flected in its clubs, but, although working class families press 
toward schooling for their children and to some extent avail 
themselves of technical training in evening classes, it is the 
more leisured women of the business class who compose the 
literary and artistic study clubs of the city.^^ These nineteen 
groups, fifteen of them forming a part of the county “Fed- 
erated Club of Clubs,'" vie with the men's civic clubs in local 
prominence. The total membership of all nineteen clubs is ap- 

“Mutual mental improvement" was the stated aim of the 
earliest study club to be organized; many others sprang up in 
the nineties for “the social and intellectual advancement of its 
members," “general education in art, science, literature, and 

20 Of the eighty-eight women^s ‘^social” clubs on which data were secured, 
forty-five, chiefly of the working class, play games or have “contests,” 
twenty-six, largely business class, play cards (this number would probably 
be greatly increased if more of the informal clubs could have been found 
and included in this enumeration), twelve sew, three are luncheon and 
dinner clubs, one a dancing club, and one a bowling club. 

Thirteen of these eighty-eight clubs were originally formed with a purpose 
which included the mutual saving of money (“Christmas sayings clubs”). 
Seven have some kind of devotional exercises at their meetings. Most of 
them have occasional parties and picnics. Two do some regular charitable 
work, though many more help specific needy cases. 

Thirty-eight of these eighty-eight clubs are composed of women between 
twenty-one and forty years of age, fourteen of women over forty, twenty- 
nine of both groups, seven of both of the above groups and also of mem- 
bers under twenty-one. 

21 Efforts have been made to form study organizations among worlmg 
class women, but with relatively little success. The tightening social lines 
of the city appear in the feeling of these women that they are being 
patronized by the business class women. 

22 There is some overlapping in membership of the various clubs. _ 

Age distribution of members was secured for seventeen of these nineteen 
clubs : three of them are made up of women between twenty-one and forty 
years of age, two of women over forty, and twelve of both groups. By 
a comparison with N. 20 above it will be observed that age^ is apparently 
more of a factor influencing the coming together of women in social clubs 
than in these study clubs. 



music/' or “work in literature, music, art, needlework, and 
philanthropy.” Each club has some symbol of its work; charac- 
teristically, all are verbal symbols; again characteristically, all 
relate to the master symbol, '‘Progress,” the word standing 
alone as the motto of one club. “That what we have done al- 
ready is but the earnest of what we shall do,” says another, 
while the Federated Club of Clubs sets forth, “Our motto, ‘The 
Actual and the Ideal,' means that from the actual we will grow 
into the ideal, that is, we have imagined an ideal woman, and 
we wish to grow toward that perfection in womanly beauty, 
grace, and culture.” Bound up with the symbol of progress are 
strong religious as well as educational traditions. One club sets 
at the outset of its year's printed program : 

“On the threshold of our task, 

Let us light and guidance ask. 

Let us pause in silent prayer.” 

“Progress” in mental improvement, today as a generation 
ago, is sought largely through writing and listening to papers 
and speeches. These are supplemented variously in the different 
clubs by devotions, music, and “responses” in which each 
woman says a sentence or two on “Forget-Me-Nots of My 
Summer,” “Current Events,” “Literary Gems,” “Household 
Hints,” “Bible Verses,” “Who’s Who,” “Famous Sayings of 
Great Soldiers,” “Prominent Women of the Civil War,” 
“Short Accounts of New Reforms,” “Wise and Foolish 
Women of the Bible,” “American Industries,” etc. A com- 
parison of club programs of the nineties with those of today 

23 Six of these federated clubs read from the Bible at their meetings and 
six repeat at each meeting the club woman’s creed : 


‘‘Keep us, O God, from pettiness ; let us be large in thought, in word, in deed- 

Let us be done with fault-finding and leave off self-seeking. 

May we put off all pretense and meet each other face to face without self- 
pity and without prejudice. 

May we never be hasty in judgment and always generous. 

Teach us to put into action our better impulses, straightforward and 

Let us take time for all things; make us grow calm, serene and gentle. 

Grant that we may realize it is the little things that create differences; 
that in the big things of life we are as one. 

And may we strive to touch and to know the great common woman’s heart 
of us all; and, O Lord God, let us not forget to be kind.” 



suggests that active study in connection with the programs is in 
general somewhat less consecutive than formerly, although only 
those clubs are admitted to the federation which do some defi- 
nite '‘work/" Most of the programs tend to oscillate somewhat 
from subject to subject in an effort to be as comprehensive as 
possible in each year's work. The program of one characteristic 
federated club took up within one recent year “Prophets of the 
Bible/" “Wonders of the Radio/" “What Do Colleges for 
Women in the Orient Accomplish?"" and “The Life of Paul/" 
Another club proceeded within one winter from “Recent Re- 
ligious Movements: Christian Science and New Thought,"" to 
“The Dictograph,"" “Mural Paintings/" “The Panama Canal/" 
“The Drama,"" “Hull House,"" and “Dress/" The year’s work of 
yet another included meetings on “Waterways,"" “Animals,"" 
“Our Nation,"" “Socialism,"" and “The Simple Life/" The 
program of another club offered in an exceptionally long season 
of twenty-one meetings, five of which were purely social, a pro- 
gram providing study of “the Bible, history, music, art, and 

One factor in the great variety of subjects covered by the 
programs of many clubs may be the device of passing on to 
them through the Federation suggestions of various standing 
state committees for their work : 

“I suppose,"" said the president of the Federation on one such 
occasion, “that the members of the state committees will want to 
put in special pleas for the subjects of their particular committees. 
I"m on the history committee and I"ll say my say first. Now, I 

24 ^ Cf. Ch. XVII for discussion of the music and art clubs which are 
members of the Federation. No other clubs have as clearly defined fields of 

25 While Biblical themes are still common, they do not bulk as large as 
formerly. Thirty-five years ago it was not tmcommon for a club to follow 
some study of the Bible concurrently with other work. Such a mingling of 
the two strains api)ears in the following course of study for the twenty- 
one meetings in the year's program of one club : Meeting No. i : Abraham ; 
Egyptian women. 2: Isaac; modern Egypt. 3: Jacob; Greek women. 4: 
Joseph; Greek religion. 5; Moses; Roman women. 6: Banquet, 7: The 
twelve tribes ; Quo Vadis. 8: Tabernacle; French women. 9 : Jewish feasts; 
French palaces. lo: Idolatry; English women, ri : David. 12: Solomon; 
American women. 13: Temple; Yellowstone National Park. 14; Children's 
Day. 15: Queen of Sheba; [State] writers. 16: Joseph and Mary; Queen 
Wilhelmina. 17: Christ; Czarina of Russia. 18: Jerusalem; lives of Patti, 
Schumann-Heink, Sembrich, Melba. 19: Mary Magdalene; prophecy of the 

Club ten years hence. 20: Modern Jews; Harold, Last of the Saxons. 

21: Passion Play; modern painters. 



think it would be really very fine if each club would include at 
least one meeting this next year on early state history. I don’t see 
any reason why you shouldn’t do it. We should all know more 
about the early history of our own state. The history committee 
would like you to have just one meeting on that. Now the other 
ladies may speak for their committees.” Members of the Industrial 
Relations Committee and of the Committee on the Exchange of 
Bulbs and Seeds, and so on, followed with their pleas. 

In addition to this parceling out of programs by energetic com- 
mittees, there are certain standard subjects which recur; year 
after year appear meetings on ^^Origins of Thanksgiving,” 
^‘'Old Christmas Stories,” ^‘How the Flag Originated,” “Flag 
Day and Its Meaning,” “The Home Life of George Washing- 
ton,” “St. Patrick and the Shamrock,” “Thoughts on Easter,” 
“Friendships of the Bible,” “Bible Types of Modern Women,” 
“Birds and Flowers of the Bible,” “Old Testament Heroes,” 
“Beauty Spots of the State,” “Middle Western Writers,” “Riley 
and His Poems,” “Readings from Eddie Guest,” varied with 
“History of our Club” and “How We May Improve Our 

Amid these programs — ^winding along through “Ruskin, As 
Man, Author, and Critic,” “The Xantippes of History” (with 
the comment, “If all had husbands like Socrates they would be 
found more numerous in our city”), “Etchings and Engrav- 
ings,” ‘Tmmigration,” “The Power of Music,” “The Effect of 
Friendship upon Character,” “Intelligence Testing,” “Modern 
Novels” — certain trends appear. A slow shift is taking place 
away from the almost exclusive preoccupation with “litera- 
ture” as the heart of the things worth studying toward more 
active interest in the life of Middletown. The earlier aims of 
“the promotion of literary and social tastes” are somewhat 
giving way to “the social and intellectual advancement of 
women and united effort to further improvement in the com- 
munity in which we live.” “In the early days we were more 
interested in ancient Greece,” said one club woman, “but now 
we are interested in what is happening in Middletown.” 

The oldest and largest of the women’s clubs, which now haV 
168 members, began in the late nineties to form clubs within 
the club, or “departments.” The Literature Department, which 
included art, music, and ancient history, comprehended the 



entire work of the club in 1890, but the Literature and Art De- 
partment today is in the minority both in number of meetings 
and of members, owing to the rise of popular Departments of 
Sociology and Civics (originally Philanthropy and Civics) and 
History and Current Events (originally Education and 
Home) These new departments, made up of women having 
the ballot and aware of many currents in the life eddying about 
them, zealous to improve Middletown, find their way hard. 
One business class woman who says that she is ‘‘never able to 
get reading done,” joined the History and Current Events 
Department whose program announced the study of Wells’ 
Outline of History and the Review of Reviews News Letter. 
“But,” she protested, “at the meetings the women, instead of 
discussing, read aloud little sections of the book and I get 
nothing from it at all. At one meeting they read from the 
Outline and at the next read an article on pioneer life by Dr. 

and at the next went back to Mr. Wells. I have stopped 

going, and I'm going to resign.” 

The Sociology and Civics Department, setting out in 1924- 
25 to study community problems with the help of Blackmar and 
Gillin's Outlines of Sociology and Miss Byington's Russell 
Sage pamphlet on What Social Workers Should Know About 
Their Own Communities, found itself bewildered in the attempt 
to cover in one meeting the political life of Middletown and in 
the next the religious life, trying to answer questions on the 
churches ranging from “Do their spheres overlap?” to “What 

26 The following changes in diste^ution of membership are illuminating: 

1890: Entire membership literature, art, music, and ancient history. 
1902-3: Lit and Art 54 per cent.. Philanthropy and Civics 27 per cent. 
Education and Home 19 per cent 

1909-10: Lit and Art 45 per cent.. Sociology arid Civics 31 per cent. History 
and Current Events 24 per cent. 

1919-20: Lit and Art 45 per cent, Sociology and Civics 33 per cent, History 
and Current Events 22 per cent. 

1923-24: Lit and Art 32 per cent.. Sociology and Civics 22 per cent. His- 
tory and Current Events 34 per cent.. Dramatic Art 12 per cent 

As late as 1899-1900, nine of the general club meetings were under the 
Department of Literature and Art and only five each under the Depart- 
ments of Philanthropy and Civics and of Education and Home, whereas in 
1919-20 Literature and Art had five meetings, Sociology and Civics six, 
and History and Current Events three, and in 1923-24, Literature and Art 
and History and Current Events had four each, and Sociology and Civics 
and the new Department of Dramatic Art, devoted to rehearsing and pre- 
senting plays, three each. 



is the social welfare work of each? How is it financed Baffled 
by the difficulty of finding concrete answers to the complex cur- 
rent questions they are attempting to study in this and other 
clubs, Middletown women tend, not unnaturally, to fall back 
upon generalizations. Thus a paper dealt characteristically 
with the ^‘problems’’ of the church in Middletown in such 
terms as: 

^'Whenever in poetry we hear exalted the beauty of night, it is 
always a night with stars. ... No man with a soul in him can 
look at the stars and not see God. . . . Men would be hopelessly 
lost in the darkness of this world but for the light of the true 

A paper on ^'Bolshevism in America” at another study club 

"There is room in this country for but one flag and that is the 
American fliag. Put down the red flag. It stands for nothing which 
our Government stands for. It is against the integrity of the 
family, the State and Nation. It floats only where cowards are in 
power. . . . The whole Bolshevik movement in Russia was in the 
interest of and financed by Germany. In the United States German 
Gold also has been stimulating the Bolshevik campaign. 

"Bolshevism has no root in America. . . . The I.W.W. rep- 
resents organized Bolshevism in America. We have certainly 
shown that we know how to handle the I.W.W. ... It would be 
foolish to magnify such disorders as Bolshevism. . . . The Amer- 
ican people believe in America. They believe in doing things the 
right way. not the wrong way. 

"We must take this movement of Bolshevism seriously. . . . 
We must not for one moment relax our vigilance. . . 

"Part of it is contradictory,” said the writer afterwards, "but 
I read different things in different places.” 

Still another club attempted the discussion of the "problem” 
of the movies in Middletown, "a subject of vital interest from 
a moral as well as commercial aspect” ; a paper presented "Ten- 
dencies of Movies and Their Possibilities,” and the program 
thereafter shifted into "a chatty round-table discussion of fa- 
vorite screen stars, best plays, and why certain ones were 
chosen by club members.” 

Discussion of child-rearing, although it would appear to be 
a dominant interest of many of these federated club members^ 



is confined almost entirely to the straggling Mothers’ Council. 
This organization, replacing the moribund Parent-Teachers 
Association, is kept alive by the larger churches, each of which 
has its own group; at the monthly union meetings attendance 
ranges only from twelve to twenty. Programs consist, in addi- 
tion to music, Bible reading, and prayer, of talks or the reading 
aloud of papers sent out by the national organization, followed 
by scattered discussion.^^ According to the emphatic testimony 
of one of the active members : 

^‘The Mothers’ Council is dying. Actually it is powerless to act 
in matters concerning the problems of home and school because it 
is connected with the churches. The only good thing it has done is 
to bring Catholic and Protestant women together and help break 
down religious prejudice — though even this was almost spoiled 
when a minister’s wife bitterly attacked the Catholic attitude 
towards Bible study in the schools. The meetings really do next 
to nothing to help mothers to deal with their own problems in 
bringing up their children.” 

Only occasionally in the other federated clubs do papers appear 
on such subjects as '^The Family as a Cooperative Institution” 
and “What Public Health Is Doing for the Child.” “House 
Planning,” “Interior Decoration,” and other questions of home- 
making are only less infrequent. And even such discussions tend 
to fall into the familiar generalizations, as, for example, in a 
1924 paper on care of health; 

27 The concepts under which the ‘'problems” involved in child-rearing 
are conceived by these groups appear from the 1923-24 program:^ "The 
Power of Organized Motherhood to Benefit Humanity”; "New Application 
of Music and Song in Education” ; "Choosing Children’s Books,” followed 
by discussion led by the local librarian; "Cooperation between the Home 
and School”; "The Duty of Parents in Training Children for Citizenship”; 
"Thoughts on Religious Education,” and "Christian Spirit in the Home”; 
"Courtesy — Respecting the Rights of Others.” The 1924-25 program included : 
"What Constitutes a Modem Good Father?” (by a minister) ; "What Can 
We Do Toward Meeting Community Needs?” (by the head of the local hos- 
pital, whose principal interest in her talk was aligning the local womm be- 
hind the hospital); "The Woman of the Home”; “A Real American”; 
debate on "Resolved, That a College Education is Necessary to Success”; 
a “Teen Age Meeting, including talks on the Boy Scouts, Camp Fire 
Girls, the Bible in the public schools, and review of the novel, The Plastic 
Age; “The Misunderstood Child.” It is only fair to remark that these im- 
ported program subjects glorify out of all proportion the actual proceedings 
at the meetings. 



^'The physical laws of health, however simple and concise they 
may be, are not to be separated from the mental and spiritual con- 
dition of the patient, and no one will deny that their influence is 
of great importance. ‘Know ye not that your body is the temple 
of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and 
ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price; therefore 
glorify God in your bodies, and in your spirit which is God's/ 

‘*The subject of foods and food values is a broad one. . • . If 
people would but fully realize that by proper living it is possible 
for every one to be well, very few persons would be ill. The great 
hope of modem medicine is the prevention of disease/" 

It continued with a sketch of the work of Jenner and the 
Mayos, with no reference to the concrete problems involved in 
“proper living” in Middletown. 

Press reports of club papers, while they frequently include 
summaries of the facts covered, tend to single out for eulogy 
“the charming and gracious manner” in which the paper was 
presented, or the “well-chosen and eloquent” words of the 
speaker ; one of the most popular lectures to which Middletown 
dub women listened in 1924 was described as “a poem in 
prose.” As school education appears to be more valued in 
Middletown as a S3?mbol for things hoped for than for its 
specific content, so this activity of “improving one^s mind” 
through dub papers may be regarded as serving in part as a 
focus of sentiments rather than as something to be put into 
practice and used. And, just as the city paid more attention to 
elaborate externals of its houses in the eighties, when there was 
little to be done in the way of adding material improvements 
inside, so these papers show a tendency toward verbal orna- 
mentation not only in the familiar regions of literature and art, 
but also in the baffling new programs on “civic problems.” In 
other words, here as elsewhere, stagnation or mild bewilder- 
ment tends to result in the proliferation of superficial external 
aspects. If, however, the pressure of maladjustment in local 
life becomes acute enough to force increasingly concrete dis- 
cussion and action upon the emergent “Sociology and Civics” 
concerns of these women, we may expect to see a recession of 
this ornate verbiage before more definite action addressed to 
specific ends. 

As the clubs have become less exclusively literary they have 
increasingly made sporadic forays into practical civic affairs. 



No one of the fifteen federated clubs lacks an annual contri- 
bution to at least one of the social service organizations : the 
Free Kindergarten, Humane Society, Anti-Tuberculosis Asso- 
ciation, Social Service Bureau, Day Nursery, Y.W.C.A., etc. 
Federated Club members point with pride, also, to the fact that 
they initiated the first Associated Charities in the city, the 
Visiting Nurses’ Association, the Juvenile Court, the teaching 
of manual training in the schools; to their sponsoring of art 
exhibits in the schools, recognition dinners for honor students, 
a rest room for women in the Court House, anti-tuberculosis 
shacks, investigation of the working conditions of women in 
Middletown; to their agitation for regulation of dance halls, 
better motion pictures, and dry law enforcement; to their 
changing the name of one of the streets to Pershing Avenue 
and planting trees along it as a war memorial.^® Discussion 
as to which woman’s club originated certain of these projects 
is active, and in some cases a men’s club disputes the claim, 
but the Chamber of Commerce is wont to turn to the Federated 
Qubs for help in a community program, and the men frequently 
admit that ^^it’s usually the women who carry things through.” 
This concrete satisfaction of something definite accomplished in 
Middletown appears to be an increasingly prominent feature of 
the work of the women’s clubs. 

And yet the essential function of these groups is probably 
no more to be found in their civic work than in their study 
programs. Of the twenty meetings yearly of one representative 
study club, three are limcheons with no programs, another is a 
banquet for husbands, a fourth an annual banquet for members, 
while an annual guest day, an annual picnic, and an annual 
business meeting are also without programs; eleven program 
meetings remain, at all of which refreshments are served and a 
^‘social hour” is enjoyed. In the early days of the largest 
women’s club a banquet was held once every three years, 
whereas today there is an annual banquet, the year opens with 
a dinner or tea, there is a New Year’s “Open House,” a 

2SThe Mothers’ Council has fostered various movements in the com- 
munity: religious education in the schools; an effort to remove obscene 
literature from the local news-stands; getting the sororities to recommend 
that their members do not wear such low-cut gowns to dances ; urging pro- 
bation work in the juvenile court; and persuading the high school authori- 
ties to set aside the first period in the morning for committee meetings so 
that the children can come home earlier from school. 



“Daughters’ Night/’ and a final garden party. The Record 
Book of the Federation for 1899-1900 records discussion of 
whether “the social phase of club life should be encouraged or 
not” and of whether a club “should have an object beyond self- 
culture.” This is no longer an open question, and the |ittitude 
of the woman who said, “I have had several invitations to join 
women’s clubs, but I haven’t joined any yet. I am waiting until 
an invitation from the right one comes along,” apparently re- 
flects an increasingly prevalent tendency to utilize club mem- 
b^psljip instrumentally as a social stepping-stone. In the nine- 
ties, when books, magazines, and other opportunities for “self- 
culture” were relatively less available and informal contacts 
with friends more so, the social aspect was apparently less im- 
portant; today, with this situation reversed, it must be served 

/ As part of a democratic counter-trend traceable in part to the 
war, the oldest woman’s club has made the important shift from 
an exclusive to an inclusive membership. From a carefully se- 
lected membership of thirty-nine in 1890, growing more slowly 
than the population of the city during the next thirty years, 
this club increased 125 per cent, between 1920 and 1923, its 
present membership being 168. Many members regret the 
change, as ^'it has brought in many women who want the so- 
cial prestige of club membership but are not willing to work 
for culture.” In such a club as this or the Matinee Musical, de- 
scribed above, the ranks tend to be swelled out at the bottom by 
the socially hungry and depleted at the top by the women to 
whom this is ^‘just one more club.” All other clubs are more 
exclusive, keeping their membership to between twenty and 
thirty and maintaining the established social levels of the city. 

One club, which exerts considerable effort to keep “mental 
and social culture” as its sole aim by requiring attendance at all 
meetings and serving no refreshments, is nevertheless the most 
socially exclusive of all clubs. It has a strictly limited member- 
ship, meets during only seven months of the year at the con- 
spicuously leisurely hours of nine to eleven in the morning, and 
allows no written papers, its purpose being “to revive the lost 
art of conversation.” More than any of the other clubs it has 
held to the consecutive study of “literary” subjects, but of late 
years its programs have been interspersed with talks on travel, 
and one recent year it yielded to the current “civic” tendency to 



the extent of basing its program on ''The Larger Citizenship." 
But its social exclusiveness remains, and it holds itself rather 
aloof from the other clubs of the Federation. 

Appeal to social prestige was used by a publishing house to 
draw women into the club which most nearly resembles the 
Chautauqua Reading Circles of the nineties. The agents for this 
"clever book-selling scheme," as it is called even by some of its 
supporters, secured the adherence of some social leaders and 

used their names as drawing-cards for others. "But, Mrs. 

you don’t realize that this isn’t just a study group," said the 
agent to one woman who had said that she did not care to join. 
"It will give you a chance to know the best people in town !" 
With this inducement, plus the fact that they would be receiv- 
ing "the equivalent of a college course except for economics," 
125 women invested $66.00 in a set of books to be used as a 
basis for a six-year course of study. And, in defiance of the 
customary social stratifications, the nucleus of the plan has per- 
sisted ; women who, as one member explained of her particular 
group, "would never have come together in an invitation club," 
continue to meet. During the three years since the Chapter was 
organized, one morning group largely composed of society 
women has practically fallen to pieces; an evening group of 
business women limps on feebly, and two other morning groups 
of more mixed membership survive ; the last two, like the first, 
display in their 9 a.m. meeting hour the same conspicuous 
leisure which marks the morning club described above. The 
study centers around the books which one member described 
as "outlines, about what you would find in an ordinary school 
history." The first year covered "Epochs of Human Progress" 
in eighteen meetings, the second "History of the Drama," and 
the groups in 1924-25 were studying the "History of Art." "I 
work harder on this than on any of my other club work," said 
one of the most active leaders of club life in the city. "I usually 
spend an afternoon at the library on each paper," said another, 
"and two evenings writing it." As many as six papers at a 
single meeting may cover, for example, "Egyptian Architec- 
ture," "Mesopotamian Architecture," "Solomon^s Temple," 
"Greek Architecture," "Greek Sculpture," and "Greek Paint- 
ing." At such a meeting one sees the persistence of the tradi- 
tional emphasis upon '‘improving one’s mind" by means of all 



sorts of knowledge. Following the reading of papers come the 
^‘questions for this time’^ : 

Ques, ‘^Describe the plan of an Egyptian temple.^" 

Ans^ ‘‘They were very massive/' 

Leader. “Yes, and, of course, we know they had decorations 
and all/' 

Ques, “Contrast the cella of a Greek temple with the inner 
rooms of Elg3q>tian and Mesopotamian temples/' 

Leader. “Of course, they were just about the same." 

Ques^ “Point out the differences between the Egyptian, Meso- 
potamian, and Greek religions/’ 

Leader. “Of course, we know they were all pretty much alike. 
They all worshiped gods.” 

“I learned three things from this meeting," said one of the 
group as the dozen women were leaving, “there were three kinds 
of Greek colttmns, Roman architecture wasn't as good as Greek, 
and Alexander the Great lived before Christ.” 

Somewhat set apart from the other women's study clubs and 
including a few men among their numbers are the groups cen- 
tering their work in “practical psychology.” As eagerly as 

Middletown in the nineties thronged to hear “Dr. C 's free 

lectures to men and women only on Solar Biology or our rela- 
tion to the Zodiac — ^the mysteries of yourself,” about 250 
people, the majority of them women, came in 1924 to find out 
from two women lecturers “How We Reach Our Sub-con- 
scious Minds.” Following the free advertising talks, thirty 
women, some of them from the working class, paid $25.00 for 
a course of ten lectures giving “definite psychological instruc- 
tion for gaining and maintaining bodily fitness and mental poise 
and for building personality,” setting forth the ^"Infallible 
Formula'' for “reaching, re-directing, and enriching the opera- 
tions of Your Greater Self,” and assuring that “we all come 
into the world with the same equipment of brain cells. You 
can become any sort of success you choose.” Another group of 
two dozen women and two men comes together weekly in a 
meeting in the parlors of the Chamber of Commerce, begin- 
ning always with the prescribed ritual : 

Leader. “How are you?” 

Group. “Fine and dandy, why shouldn’t I be?” 



Leader. ‘‘Now we have started vibrations which have lifted us 
already to a higher plane/’ 

Group, in unison. “I am relaxing, relaxing, relaxed. ... I am 
wholly passive — Universal Mind has taken possession of me. , . . 
Knowledge is Power. I desire Knowledge. I have Knowledge — ” 

and proceeds to the study of concentration, attention, the sub- 
conscious mind, and so on from their textbook, The Master 

Despite the uneven and somewhat scattered nature of the 
work of some of these women’s study clubs, it is chiefly in these 
groups that the intellectual traditions of the nineties live on. 

If self-cultivation in women’s clubs has become somewhat 
more diffuse as the population of the city has become so differ- 
entiated that the future of a woman’s children and the business 
success of her husband are not remotely connected with the 
social level of her clubs, the educational work of the men’s clubs, 
except for strictly specialized professional clubs and listening 
to talks in other clubs, is not simply diffuse — ^it is engulfed. 

From 1878 to the chaotic gas boom days a group of substan- 
tial citizens met regularly in a Literary and Scientific Associa- 
tion, “one of the fixed institutions of learning in the city.” 
Bankers, lawyers, doctors, merchants, wrote and discussed 
papers on “What is Mind?” “The Physiology of Life and 
Death,” “Obvious Reasons for Evolution,” “The Ultimate 
Destiny of the Earth,” “Monopolies and Taxation,” “The 
Legal Effects of Marriage,” “The Religion of Asia,” “Freedom 
of Speech,” “The Evils of Our School System,” “What Shall 
We Teach Our Boys?” “Patriotism vs. Dishonesty,” “The 
Relativity of Knowledge,” and ^‘The Relation of Science to 
Morality.” The intellectual give and take of this group was evi- 
denced by the opposition it aroused,^^ and, after the first 

“This association, like all the others of a similar character,” observed a 
local historian in 1880, “has failed to secure the good will and friendship 
of all professed promoters of progress. To some, it partakes too mu(^ of 
religion; to others, too largely of science; to some, not enough of either. 
Indeed, some whose cherished opinions and beliefs have suffered by coming 
into contact with the relentless argument of others, have irreverently and 
uncharitably charged infidelity as the prevailing sentiment. Occasions of its 
adjournment have been seized upon to write and publish its obituary by 
those whose wish has been father to the thought; but while numerous ex- 
amples of the instability of human affairs are constantly passing our notice, 
the Literary and Scientific Association of [Middletown], now upon the 
threshold of the fourth year of its existefc^ never gave better promise of 


breath-taking rush of the gas boom, it was resinned in the 
Ethical Society, including in its membership "‘any gentleman 
above the age of sixteen years, who enjoys a reputation for 
temperance, virtue, and is liberty-loving, truth-telling, and 
debt-paying,’^ who received a unanimous vote of the members. 

""The utmost freedom of speech will be allowed,” continues the 
press announcement, ""there are no fees or fines. . . . The ex- 
ercises are to consist of essays, orations, recitations, and discus- 
sions. Any plan the purpose of which is to benefit our city morally 
or humanity collectively may be placed before the society. It is 
hoped that public sentiment may be aroused so that any and all 
palpable evils with which we are afflicted may be eradicated be- 
cause the best element in society demands it. . . 

The society started out with a membership of twenty-nine 
""of all denominations and political complexions” and shortly 
increased to fifty, including some women; attendance of mem- 
bers and guests frequently reached seventy-five or one hun- 
dred. It led a wandering existence, meeting at first in the ‘"Blue 
Ribbon” Rooms and later in the Universalist Church, being re- 
quested to leave the latter place, because, it is reported, its Sun- 
day afternoon meetings drew so many more people than the 
church services. Week after week in the nineties baker and nail- 
maker sat side by side with banker and doctor,®^ discussing 
such questions as the ‘"Ethical Life of Man” (“The well-being 
of man and not the glory of God should be the subject of our 
efforts. Intellectual, moral, and physical culture and not piety 
is the prime condition of man’s well-being. . . .”), “Physical 
Culture for Children in Our Schools,” “Free Silver,” or “The 
Meaning of Evolution.” Nor was this the only discussion 
group ; the Carpenters’ Union conducted for a while a series of 
Sunday afternoon discussions, and lively discussion went on 

continuing to edify all who will attend its meetings, and of wielding an 
influence for good in the commtmity where it seems to have a permanent 

The important thing to note here, in the light of the current quietistic 
men^s civic clubs, is that there could be a club of leading business and pro- 
fessional men in Middletown a generation ago that stirred up fierce indig- 
nation on philosophical and social questions. Cf. the discussion of the leveling 
effect of credit in Ch. VIII, and also Ch. XXVIII. 

so A baker, describing the way he spent Sunday in the nineties, said, “In 
the morning a bunch of us bakers would get together with a keg and bicker 
over wages, flour, and what not. Then after dinner I’d go to the Ethical 


at the Workingmen's Library, where smoking and talking were 
allowed. A mimber of church and neighborhood groups met to 
argue the merits of favorite authors or disputed political ques- 

Today lawyers, doctors, bankers, ministers, and now and 
then other professional groups, meet in their several associa- 
tions to listen to papers on the details of their work, and, in 
the case of the Medical Association, at least, the papers by out- 
side speakers frequently furnish stimulating additions to the 
professional knowledge of the members. Except for these spe- 
cialized getting-a-living clubs, however, the discussion groups 
of the nineties are as far removed from the leisure-time pursuits 
of Middletown men today as are trolley rides, taffy pullings, 
and church socials.^^ The new civic clubs, which with golf, 
bridge, and motoring are the leisure interests toward which 
Middletown business men gravitate, are in no sense an out- 
growth of the early discussion clubs ; they are bred of a differ- 
ent stock and nourished at the breast of the local business life.®^ 
These largely non-overlapping groups, carefully selected for 
prowess in business, highly competitive, and constituting a 
hierarchy in the prestige their membership bestows, exemplify 
more than do churches or lodges the prepotent values of the 
dominant group of business men of the city. 

And just as a small group of Middletown's business class ex- 
hibits with peculiar clearness trends operative in a much larger 
section of the population, so Rotary, oldest and most coveted 
of all the civic clubs, represents the aims of the others.^^ The 

In the twenty of the twenty-four adult study clubs in Middletown, 
exclusive of the professional associations, for whom figures were obtained, 
there are^io members; of these, twelve (1.7 per cent.) are men, individuals 
scattered through three groups of women, two of them classes in “mind- 
power,” and the third a district Parent-Teachers Association. In the high 
school clubs of the type built around art, literature, and other courses, from 
which data were obtained, 133 of a total of 385 members were boys. 

32 The present Chamber of Commerce is, however, a direct descendant of 
the earlier Citizens’ Enterprise Association, both being concerned with pro- 
moting the business and industrial interests of the city. 

33 The following five characteristics of Rotary, from The Rotarian for 
September, 1924 are typical of the pronouncements of all of these clubs : 
(i) The unique basis of membership-— singleness of classification; (2) the 
compulsory attendance rule; (3) the intensively developed friendships; (4) 
the activities for the betterment of the individual member and his business ; 
(5) the requirement that members strive for the betterment of^ the craft 
corresponding to their classification in Rotary, particularly stressing higher 
standards of business practice. 



eighty men who gather each Tuesday for lunch at Rotary come 
tc^^ether under the rules of the national organization decreeing 
that a single outstanding man in each business and profession in 
the city may be a Rotarian; but since strict adherence to this 
rule would omit some of the business leaders, special ^ ^associate’' 
and ^'honorary” memberships have been created so that one sees 
among Rotary members four lawyers, three bankers, and four 
millionaire manufacturers all engaged in the same plant. These 
chosen head men, meeting in the best hotel or at the Country 
Club, stand about chatting, observing the ritual of calling each 
other by first names, until the president shouts, “Let’s go!” 
whereupon all crowd into the dining room. No “blessing” pre- 
cedes this meal as in the other civic clubs, as the classification 
of ministers is unrepresented in Rotary. Eating proceeds vig- 
orously at the long tables for about half an hour. Ten minutes 
of lusty song follows — ^the latest Broadway hits and Rotary 
songs, chief among them : 


That spells ro-tar-eee. 


It’s known o’er land and sea ; 

From North to South, 

From East to West, 

He pro-fits most 

Who serves the best. 


That spells ro-tar-eee. 

When “every one is feeling good,” the scrolls bearing the 
printed words of the songs are rolled up on the wall and the 
introduction of guests takes place. “I have with me as my guest 
Bill Smith, visiting Rotarian from Jacksonville,” says a mem- 
ber. Bill stands up, and from all the tables rises a brisk volley 
of, “’Lo, Bill!” “Hi, Bill!” 

As at most meetings in Middletown, speeches form the piece 
de resistance of the programs, these being of three kinds : ( i ) 
speeches from a Middletown member on his “classification” — 
“Being a motion picture exhibitor,” “Making and selling high- 
tension insulators,” merchandizing, advertising, the law; (2) 
speeches by the head of a local charity, the librarian, the direc- 
See Ch. XXII for the reasons for omitting a minister from Rotary. 



tor of the vocational work in the schools, or by the head of 
organizations such as the state bankers' association; (3) 
speeches by ''outside speakers’' routed to Middletown through 
the International Rotary headquarters and speaking on "Sound 
Economics,” "R.O.T.C. in the Colleges,” "Tax Revision,” 
"The United States and World Leadership,” and similar topics. 
Nowhere is Middletown’s predilection for a "real good speaker” 
or its ready acceptance of the views of a person who pleases it 
more apparent. 

The civic work of these clubs with their slogans of "service” 
and "the under-privileged boy” is likewise of three kinds : 
( I ) certain annual affairs such as inviting the honor students of 
the high school to one of their luncheons, holding special club 
chapels in the high school, attending the county poor farm in a 
body at Christmas time and making speeches and distributing 
small gifts, conducting an annual Christmas party for one 
hundred or so needy boys, or an annual Easter egg hunt in a 
local park, at which hundreds of children search among the 
leaves for the lucky eggs drawing prizes of merchandise and 
money; each of the clubs does four or five of these civic things 
a year; (2) the sporadic good turn to meet some local need — 
giving a radio to the Orphans’ Home, or agreeing to take turns 
week after week in bringing a crippled boy to high school in 
their automobiles; (3) considerably less common activities of 
the more ambitious sort, e.g., one club secured a summer camp 
for the local Y.W.C.A. The Dynamo Club of young business 
men, affiliated with the Chamber of Commerce and differing 
from the other civic clubs in that its membership is open to 
any member of the Chamber, secured a municipal golf course 
for the city and organized a local drive to utilize school yards 
as playgrounds. 

The lack of coherence in the subjects of the speeches to 
which each of these clubs listens week after week and in the 
noncontroversial occasional charity which constitutes their civic 
work suggests that, as in the women’s study dubs, the reason 

35 Four tnajor subjects before the national Kiwanis Convention in 1924 
were; “i. The emphasis and intensification of Service on behalf of under- 
privileged children. 2. The development of better relations between Ae 
farmer and the city man. 3. The aggressive development of a cooperative 
spirit towards the chambers of commerce and the coordination of activities, 
4. The fostering of a fuller realization of the responsibilities of patriotic 


for their dominance lies in neither of these activities but in the 
instrumental and S3nnboHc character of their organization. Not 
only are they a business asset, but by their use of first names, 
sending of flowers on birthdays, and similar devices, they tend 
to re-create in part an informal social intercourse becom- 
ing increasingly rare in this wary urban civilization. ‘^It 
isn^t Edward T. Smith, President of the So and So Corpora- 
tion, youVe addressing, said a speaker at Rotary, ^^but the 
human being, the eternal boy in Ed.’^ ""It makes you realize the 
other fellow hasn’t got horns on and ain’t out to get you,” as 
one man put it. ""You can’t sit down at a table with a man and 
talk things over without getting to understand him better/^ said 
another. ""There were a couple of fellows here I used to look 
at and think, "What’s he done ?’ and then I got to know them at 
Rotary and found they were doing a lot of fine things without 
waving their arms about them the way some folks do.” 

These genial, bantering masters of the local group find here 
some freedom from isolation and competition, even from re- 
sponsibility, in the sense of solidarity which Rotary bestows. 
For some members the civic clubs have displaced lodges and 
churches as centers of loyalty and personal and class morale. 

""Rotary and its big ideal of Service is my religion,” said one 
veteran church and Sunday School worker of Middletown. ‘"I 
have gotten more out of it than I ever got out of the church. I 
have gotten closer to men in Rotary than anywhere else, except 
sometimes in their homes.” 

All the clubs take pride in an accumulated sense of service. Said 
a speaker at a Middletown Rotary luncheon: 

""The lowly Nazarene who walked by the Sea of Galilee was the 
first Rotarian, and the second great Rotarian was that other man 
who probably did more for mankind than any other man that ever 
lived, Abraham Lincoln. Could we spread the Rotary spirit to 
the coal mines, this ideal of service would end all strikes. Could 
it be spread to the Governments of Europe, France would not 
have entered the Ruhr, Germany would have paid. You remember 
what President Harding said at the Rotary convention in St. 
Louis: "If I could plant a Rotary club in every city and hamlet 
in this country I would then rest assured that our ideals of 
freedom would be safe and civilization would progress.’ ” 



Challenging him and his world at no point, often proving of 
actual cash value in his business, membership in these clubs may 
serve a Middletown business man as the symbolic repository of 
his ideals, assuring him that by virtue of carrying on his busi- 
ness and being a member of this club his daily life in the group 
is its own justification and has dignity and importance. This 
combination of utilitarianism and idealism, linked with social 
prestige and informal friendliness, is almost irresistible. 

And yet the men’s civic clubs are not without their local 
critics. Some feel that the civic club mountain groans weekly 
and brings forth — a slogan : 

^'When you come right down to it, what’s the justification for 
the existence of this club?” said a loyal Rotarian in a burst of 
private candor. ^‘Want to know what I think? We’re just a bunch 
of Pharisees and hypocrites !” 

“It’s an awful job week after week getting up a three-ring 
circus to entertain these clubs,” said an officer in another dub, 
“and I sometimes wonder if they’re worth the trouble,” 

“The whole town is over-organized,” declared the wife of one 
Rotarian vehemently. don’t think the men’s clubs amount to 
much. They get together and some one talks about something for 
a few minutes and then they go off to business again and forget 
all about it. If all the men who meet in these separate civic clubs 
would get together, say once a month at the Chamber of Com- 
merce, and discuss one or two things and act upon them, they 
might get something done!” 

Certainly it is true that a wide gap exists between the activi- 
ties of the civic dubs and the major maladjustments of which 
Middletown complains. In general, civic club members, like 
others, habitually regard these friction spots as inevitable ac- 
companiments of life, and the city pursues its accustomed course 
with more or less creaking of the machinery in much the same 
manner as before the existence of the civic clubs. This situa- 
tion presents few anomalies when it is realized that the clubs ^ 
exist primarily as an adjunct to the business interests of their 
members and as a pleasant way of spending leisure; chiefly as a 
supplement to these interests and in regions where no enemies 
will be made or no ructions raised do the clubs become "‘civic.” 

And within Rotary itself a cleavage is beginning to appear. 
Some members complain that a certain group always sit to- 

3o6 using leisure 

gether and play together and that this ‘'cliquishness’’ will “spoil 

“Do you know what’s behind all these civic clubs?” asked a 
member of another club. “Snobbishness. Each Rotarian goes 
home and spreads the Rotary talk about the Rotarian being the 
best man in his line in town, then all the wives tell all their neigh- 
bors, and then the wives begin forming their exclusive sets.” 

This tendency may later on eventuate in the splitting off of 
another, more exclusive group within Rotary. Just as forty 
years ago the lodges, by straining off a more exclusive group, 
cut into the churches as a center of social life and loyalty for 
Middletown men, so, as the lodges have become inclusive, civic 
clubs led by Rotary have cut into the lodges. The signs of fission 
beginning to appear in Rotary may point toward a repetition 
of the cycle in the future. 

The great days of lodges as important leisure-time institu- 
tions in Middletown have vanished. At present, despite the 
heavy building programs of leading lodges, business men are 
“too busy” to find the time for lodge meetings that they did 
formerly; the man who goes weekly to Rotary will confess 
that he gets around to the Masons “only two or three times a 
year.” Working men admit, “The lodge is a thing of the past 
to what it was eight or ten years ago. The movies and autos 
have killed it.” “He belongs to a l(^ge but never goes,” said 
more than one of the working class wives interviewed. 

“Twenty years ago,” said a business class lodge officer, “when 
we had i86 members, we used to get out 125 regularly for meet- 
ings. Even ten years ago with 300 members we got out 200. Then 
we had a president who wanted the lodge to grow, and we ran the 
membership up to 912. Now we have to have a supper before 
meetings to get any one, and at that we get out only about forty, 
or on initiation night sixty. The heart of the lodge movement 
went out of it when we all began letting anybody in, regardless of 
whether he lived the ritual. The lodges here are on the rocks.” 

The attendance problem among the working class lodges is 
also acute. The Eagles, e.g., give a dollar at each meeting to 
the fifth name drawn from the membership list if the man is 
present; if he is not present the dollar is added to the dollar to 



be offered the following week. On one recent occasion the 
lodge went for thirty-seven weeks without the fifth man being 
present ; the next week the owner of the fifth name was present 
and received thirty-eight dollars, a five-dollar hat, a free sham- 
poo, and a free cleaning and pressing of a suit of clothes. 

In the main, business men join lodges today for business 
reasons ^ — r gentile business man of any local standing can 
hardly afford to stay out of the Masons at least; and workers 
join chiefly for the sickness and death benefits, though even 
here the Workmen's Compensation system, group life insurance 
by employers, and the spread of the habit of independent in- 
surance, are cutting into the lodges. The ritual is said on every 
hand to mean little today, apparently far less than even a gen- 
eration ago. “No man or woman can follow the teachings in- 
culcated here," said the press report of the founding of a new 
local lodge in 1890, “without being purer, nobler, more chari- 
table, and more willing to speak kind and loving words to those 
whom misfortune has overtaken." And yet, “the other night," 
remarked a high degree lodgeman in 1924, “one of the Tem- 
plars gave the rest of the order the devil for not making their 
practice and their professions square better. All of us know 
it is to laugh when a man is elevated to the Commandery or 
to some chair 'because of his diligence in performing the duties 
and learning the rites of Masonry,' when he knows and we 
know that he only learned enough to skin by, thanks to coach- 
ing, and really isn't interested in the rites themselves, but joined 
for business reasons." 

In the race for large memberships to support ever larger 
competitive lodge buildings — ^the Masons lead the field with a 
new million-dollar “temple" — ^the old personal note has ap- 
parently dropped largely from membership. According to a 
man closely identified with local lodge life : 

“It used to mean something when you belonged to a lodge — ^the 
lodge meant something and you meant something, and when you 
met a fellow member on the street or in his place of business one 
of the first things you'd think was that he was a fellow member. 
Now, lodges are so large you often don't even know a man's in 
'em, and if you do you don't care." 

The extent to which the lodges have lost this close brotherhood, 
in the eyes of some members, appears in the remark of a busi- 


ness man in speaking of the decline in fellowship in his church, 
“Why, you go there and it’s as cold as any lodge.” 

As lodge interest has declined, interest in other clubs has 
tended to take its place among the business class, but not among 
the workers. The lodge and the declining labor union are almost 
the only clubs of the working men. The club life of the work- 
ing class and business class groups interviewed is suggested by 
the following data on 123 and thirty-nine families respectively 
of the working class and of this group of the business class ; “ 

Business Working Business Working 
class class class class 
wives wives husbands husbands 

Total number of individuals an- 

Belonging to i or more clubs, 

lodges, etc., of some kind 

Belonging to i or more lodges 

Belonging to i or more church clubs 
Belonging to i or more labor unions 
Belcmging to other clubs 

























This disparity between club affiliations of the two groups be- 
comes more apparent from the fact that seventy-seven of the 
seventy-eight total affiliations of this representative group of 
123 working class husbands are either in trade unions or lodges, 
clubs of decreasing local importance, which many of them ap- 
parently seldom attend.^^ As pointed out in Chapter VIII, only 
eleven of the lOO working class families for whom income dis- 
tribution was secured contributed anything to labor unions. 
Forty-eight paid lodge dues, amounts ranging from $3.00 to 
$43.00, averaging $15.20. In so far as Middletown may be 
“clubbed to death’’ this is largely a business class phenomenon. 
More working class wives belong to clubs than a generation 

See Table XIX. The Ku Klux Klan is here regarded as a lodge, 

Cf. the discussion in Ch. VIII of the much greater social significance 
of the^ Middletown labor unions in their heyday during the nineties. 

Of interest in this connection are the percentages of the local social news 
in the two leading papers during the first week of March, 1890 and 1923, 
that were devoted to lodges, to clubs (including other organized groups sudi 
as labor unions), and to miscellaneous social affairs such as parties : 

Lodges Clubs, etc. Misc. Total 

1890 Paper A 32% 51% 17% 

Paper B 29 67 4 100 

1923 Paper C 20 77 3 100 

Paper D 12 76 la 100 



ago. In all likelihood, but the pressure upon the working class 
as a whole appears to be not from the multiplication of their 
loyalties but from their social isolation.^ 

With greater organization has come increasing standardiza- 
tion of leisure-time pursuits ; men and women dance, play cards, 
and motor as the crowd does ; business men play golf with their 
business associates ; some men in both groups tinker with their 
cars and tune in their radios ; a decreasing number of men are 
interested in gardening, a few turn to books, one or two sur- 
reptitiously write a little ; a few women '"keep up music” and 
two or three paint or write ; among the wealthy are a few who 
collect paintings and prints, two who collect rare books, and one 
who collects rugs. Interest In drama, as in music, art, and 
poetry, centers mainly in the high school. In 1877 there was 
even a Mechanics" Dramatic Club, "^a local group of amateurs'" ; 
but today an occasional lodge revue is put on with much labor 
to raise needed funds, and now and then a sorority gives a 
revue, but the giving of plays is confined to the high school 
and to a few women in the Dramatic Department of the 
Woman"s Club. For those who look wistfully beyond the hori- 
zon a hobby tends to be like an heretical opinion, something to 
be kept concealed from the eyes of the world. One family, un- 
usually rich in personal resources, has recently built a home a 
little way out of town, set back from the road almost hidden 
in trees. So incomprehensible is such a departure that rumors 
are afloat as to what secret motive can have prompted such un- 
precedented action. Hobbies appear to be somewhat more preva- 
lent among high school pupils than among their elders. Of 275 
boys and 341 girls in the last three years of the high school an- 
swering the question, “In what thing that you are doing at 
home this fall are you most interested?"" one boy was publish- 
ing a small magazine, one studying aviation, one practicing 
mental telepathy, fourteen doing scientific experiments, one girl 
was collecting books, one studying photography, one collecting 
linen handkerchiefs, two doing botanical experiments, and three 
girls and one boy writing.^® But most of their answers show 
that standardized pursuits are the rule ; with little in their en- 
vironment to stimulate originality and competitive social life to 

38 Cf. Ch. VIII for other factors involved. 

Cf . Ch. XVII. 


discourage it, being “different” is rare even among the young. 

Men have adopted more rapidly than their wives the activ- 
ities growing out of new leisure-time inventions : it is largely 
they who drive and tinker about the car, who build the radio 
set and “get San Francisco,” who play golf, who first use such 
new play devices as gymnasium and swimming pool. Mean- 
while, such new leisure as Middletown women have acquired 
tends to go largely into doing more of the same kinds of things 
as before. The answers of the two groups of women inter- 
viewed to the question, “What use would you make of an extra 
hour in your day?” bear witness to the narrowness of the range 
of leisure-time choices which present themselves to Middletown 
women. Both groups spoke of wanting time for reading more 
often than anything else, but as noted in Chapter XVII, this 
desire to read was both more marked and more specific among 
the business class. Only one of the thirty-two business class 
wives answering would use the time to rest, while approx- 
imately one in seven of the ninety-six working class wives gave 
such answers as “Rest,” “Go to bed,” “Lie down and rest, 
something I hardly ever do.” More than a third of the working 
class group answered blankly, “I don't know.” One in sixteen 
of each group answered, “Fancy work or crocheting,” but, in 
the case of both of the two business class women so answering, 
in a tone of apology. In both groups a number mentioned get- 
ting out more with people, but the answers indicate different 
kinds of pressure. Among the working class it was frequently : 
“I'd go an3rwhere to get away from the house. I went to the 
store last night. I've been out of the house only twice in the 
three months since we moved here, both times to the store.” 
“I have two daughters. One lives only a block away and I’ve 
been over to see her only twice in the last two months. The 
other lives ten miles out on the interurban and I never see her. 
If I had an hour I'd use it to see them.” The pressure upon the 
group of business class women is apparently much less at this 
point; some of them say vaguely, “I'd like an hour in the after- 
noon for bridge or the movies,” or “I'd like more time for 
reading, calling, visiting, and social life.” Not one of these 
business class women answering referred to church work or 
Bible reading as a possible way of spending an extra hour, 
although to seven of the working class women answering, such 
work was their chief desire ; two business class women, how- 



ever, mentioned civic work among other things. No worker’s 
wife spoke of more time with her children, but four of the 
other group felt this as their chief desire. No woman of either 
group spoke of wanting to spend more time with her husband. 
One woman perhaps summed up the situation of the business 
class mother whose children are not below school age : “I am 
busy most of the time, but I can always get out when I want 
to.” Another expressed herself as actually having time to spare: 
“I am not pressed for time. I really have time for more civic 
activity than the commimity wants me to do.” For a large pro- 
portion of the working class wives, on the other hand, each day 
is a race with time to compass the essentials.*® 

Much may be learned regarding a culture by scrutiny of the 
things people do when they do not have to engage in prescribed 
activities, as these leisure pursuits are frequently either exten- 
sions of customary occupations to which they contribute or 
contrasts to the more habitual pursuits. In Middletown both 
aspects of leisure appear. The reading Middletown people most 
enjoy, the spectacles of romance and adventure they witness on 
the screen, the ever-speedier and more extended auto trips, many 
— ^perhaps even today the majority — of the women’s club 
papers, would seem to be valued in large part because of their 
c ontrast to the humdrum routin e of ev eryday life. This seems 
tcT be partioiiIar^Tnr6‘"t)TLEelvorki class. On the other hand, 
the whole system of business men’s clubs is apparently valued 
in part for its instrumental character, its usefulness to the main 
business ofgSttmgTFvillgrand even such an apparently spon- 
taneous activity as golf is utilized increasingly as a business 
asset; this use of leisure-time groups as an extension of the 
main activities of life is appearing to a minor but seemingly in- 
creasing extent in the women’s study clubs. 

Finally, the greater organization of leisure is not alto- 

■^oTo suniinarize; Of the ninety-six working class wives answering the 
question, twenty-seven answered, “I don’t know.” Sixteen would use it for 
housework or sewing, fourteen for rest, eighteen for reading, seven for get- 
ting away from home and seeing people, seven for church work, two to write 
letters, one to earn money, and four said that they are not pressed for time 
and might therefore use the time in various ways. 

Of the Airty-two out of this group of forty business class wives answering 
this question, fourteen WMt time for reading, three for housework, two for 
fancy work, four for their children, three for social activities, one for rest, 
and five stated that they are not pressed for time and might use it in various 



g/ ^ ys 

getiler a substitute for the informal contacts of a generation 
ago; oi^rtunities to touch elbows with people are multiplied 
in the mobile and organized group life of today, but Aese 
contacts appear to be more casual and to leave the individual 
somewhat more isolated from the close friends of earlier days* 
In view of the tightening of social and economic lines in the 
growing city, it is not surprising that the tjrpe of leisure-time 
organization which dominates today tends in the main to erect 
barriers to keep others out 


Chapter XX 


In addition to their various pursuits concerned with the im- 
mediacies of life about them, Middletown people engage in an- 
other activity, religious observance, whereby they seek to un- 
derstand and to cope with the too-bigness of life. 

The more obvious manifestations of religion are the setting 
aside of one day in seven and of forty-odd buildings throughout 
the city for religious ceremonies. On the seventh day, and oc- 
casionally during the week, these buildings are opened and 
services are conducted in each by the priest or minister who 
gets his living as the leader of the group constituting each 
"'church.’’ Membership in one of the religious groups is gen- 
erally taken for granted, particularly among the business class, 
and a newcomer is commonly greeted with the question, ""What 
church do you go to?” 

Middletown exhibits a wide variety of religious beliefs, but 
almost without exception, the beliefs of all groups center in the 
collected writings handed down in the Bible, With few excep- 
tions, notably the Jewish temple, churches in Middletown rep- 
resent some form of Christianity. When one asked various in- 
dividuals in Middletown, "'What does one believe in if one is 
a Christian?” they inclined at first to think the questioner was 
joking, a condition reflecting the general tendency to accept 
"being a Christian” as synonymous with being "civilized” or 
"an honest man” or "a reputable citizen.” In general the an- 
swers were on this order, although, even within the Christian 
tradition, there are many shades of belief : "Why, God made 
Heaven and earth and sent Jesus Christ, His son, to save the 
world from sin. If you believe in Christ you will be saved.” 
Perhaps the outstanding divergence in these statements ap- 
peared in the tendency of some either to add to or to substitute 
for "believe in Christ” the words, "do His will.” A somewhat 
more philosophical variant is the statement of a Middletown 


3i6 engaging in RELIGIOUS PRACTICES 

minister that ‘^the world is good, God is good, and His spirit 
wherein men are to live is love's spirit." Around this core has 
grown up an elaborate system of beliefs, prohibitions, and 
group-sanctioned conduct. 

Prominent among these beliefs is a confidence in the all- 
sufficiency for all mankind of this religion. Of 241 boys and 
315 girls in the two upper years of the high school marking 
Sie statement, ^'Christianity is the one true religion and all 
pec^les should be converted to it," 83 per cent, of the boys and 
92 per cent, of the girls marked it “true" and 9 and 3 per cent, 
respectively “false"; the remainder were “uncertain" or did 
not answer.^ According to the minister of the largest Protestant 
church in the city, “Christianity can never be supplanted by any 
other system, for it gives the only perfect statement of right." 
Said the minister of the second largest Protestant church, 
addressing a Sunday audience at the Middletown Chautauqua : 

“Christ’s teachings are plain. . . . Twenty centuries have added 
to them nothing out of human experience, nor can any other cen- 
turies add to them, for they are the teachings of God walking in 
human flesh. ... All human philosophy, reasoning, is alike ; it is 
no more than the newspaper — just for the hour; but the Bible, 
read as a child would read it, is for the ages. Prophecy, knowl- 
edge, philosophy, creed, catechism, . . • all fail ; the Word abides." 

The same confidence is reflected in a paper on “The Women in 
Japan" read by a member before one of the federated clubs : 

“Nowhere, except in Christianity, can the awakened mind of 
the women of Japan find the guidance which it needs in this day 
of new horizons." 

The slight touch of disreputability commonly clinging to the 
doubter is reflected in the remark of the minister of a leading 
church in announcing to his morning congregation : 

“Dr. W will address us at the Chautauqua tent this eve- 

ning. I will be perfectly frank with you and tell you that he repre- 
sents the liberal school of Christian thought; but I do not think 
he will give us anything of that sort this evening, as he is a very 
gracious gentleman and thinker," 

1 This, like the other verbal reactions to this "true-false” questionnaire, is 
presented as suggesting a tendency in the local life rather than as offering 
absolute proof. 



Questioning the truth or adequacy of their religious beliefs is 
not within the conversational area of most people in the city.* 
The openly free-thinking group, represented in part in the Eth- 
ical Society of the nineties,® has disappeared and in its stead is 
an outwardly conforming indifference among a certain minority 
of the business class. *TVe joined the church,” said one promi- 
nent man, ‘"because who am I to buck an institution as big as 
the church, and an3rway it seems necessary to conform, but I 
guess my pastor knows all right how little my heart is in it.” 
For the most part, however, Middletown does not question the 
adequacy of the “great fundamentals” of its religion. 

A second commonly held belief is that in the sacredness of the 
Bible. According to the minister of the largest church in the 

‘‘The Bible is the only great book that even attempts a sane, 
reasonable interpretation of the origin, orderly conduct, and des- 
tiny of the world and of man. . . . The study of the Bible is the 
surest path to great ability which can be found. If you would 
develop character and be mighty for good among men, first be 
mighty in communion with God and commit to memory His 

Or, according to a prominent Bible class teacher, addressing a 
class of 200 adults, “A man who would change one word of 
the St. James [sic] version must be a consummate fool.” A 
leading club woman assured the Literature and Art Depart- 

2 The emotional basis of this prohibition upon religious doubt is reflected 
in the statement by a teacher of teachers in the local normal college in an 
address before the Federated Club of Clubs — ^‘‘Why can we trust what 
Browning says about God? Because he never doubted.’* 

2 Cf. Ch. XIX for an account of the Ethical Society. ^ 

^Religious discussions in the course of leisure-time intercourse are rare 
and largely taboo among the business class. Such reticences are not so 
rigorously observed among the workers, and one occasionally hears frank 
questioning of these “fundamentals” among them. Such a conversation 
as this, e.g., which took place in a group of men and women talking in- 
formally before a meeting of a labor group, would scarcely be possible 
among the more socially wary business class : 

A painter. “I was paintin’ for a woman the other day and she says to me, 
To you believe in Hell?' and I didn't know what was cornin’ but I says, 
'Sure I do — Hell on earth.' And she says, 'That's the way with me, too, 
and I believe in a Supreme Being, too — ^but you can't tell me He came 
down on earth and walked round as “three persons.” Not but that I think 
Jesus was a good man. I do. But I don’t believe in this incarnation busi- 

Woman member. “That’s what I say, too. Of course, we all believe in a 
Supreme Being.” 

3 i8 engaging in RELIGIOUS PRACTICES 

ment of the Woman’s Qnb, ‘‘The Bible is . . . above all else 
the inspired book of our religion and on its teachings is based 
the hope of the whole world/’ Said a local lawyer to one of the 
largest Sunday Schools in town, “I’d rather have a person grad- 
uate from Sunday School with a knowledge of the Bible than 
from Harvard or Yale without it.” Fifty-eight per cent, of the 
241 boys and 68 per cent of the 315 girls answering the junior- 
senior questionnaire marked “true” the statement, “The Bible 
is a sufficient guide to all the problems of modern life” ; 26 and 
20 per cent, respectively marked it “false,” and the remainder 
were “uncertain” or did not answer.® Phrases from the Bible 
are cited on all manner of occasions, in or out of their context, 
as carr3ring special truth ; so a popular minister in an appeal for 
funds for a new church building addressed the following para- 
graph to his members : 

*‘God is spoken of as the creator of the heavens and the earth 
(Gen. I : i), as the possessor of the heavens and the earth (Deut. 
10: 14), as the one whose is the earth and the fulness thereof 
(Ps. 24: i), as the one who owns every beast of the field and the 
cattle upon a thousand hills (Ps. 50:10), as the one to whom 
belongs the silver and the gold (Hag. 2:8). God has never quit- 
claimed or in any way relinquished His right, title, or interest in 
the earth and the fulness thereof.” ® 

® Cf. Ch. XIV for the answers by the same group to the statement, “The 
theory of evolution offers a more accurate account of the origin and history 
of mankind than that offered by a literal interpretation of the first chap- 
ters of the Bible,” 

There is a general feeling in Middletown that the book is “perfect” and 
free from inconsistencies “if our finite mirids could only understand.” One 
of the most intelligent women in the city was chagrined because she 
could not explain “that awful lesson about the Gadarene swine” to her 
class of some twenty-five girls of high school age: “I didn’t know what 
to say about the thing, so I spent the thirty-five minutes making the girls 
talk. I got about three-fourths of the way around before the hour ended 
and told them I might tell them what I thought Sunday after next. Mean- 
while, I am looking it up in all the commentaries I can get my hands on.” 

Over against this mood should be noted, however, the remark of the 
minister of the one doctrinally liberal church in Middletown to his men’s 
Bible Class touching one of the “miracles” : “You could drop that miracle 
out of the Bible and it wouldn’t worry me. I don’t get any sense out of it.” 

Another minister to one of the most thriving working class groups is 
wont to say whenever baffled by a passage in the Bible, “Well, that’s one 
of the things we’ll have to wait till we get to Heaven to find out” Such a 
statement elicits a general nodding of heads in assent from his flock. 

*This emphasis upon ability to repeat verses from the Bible is a marked 
feature of the religious life in this culture. A summary in the daily press 
of the work of the “daily vacation school” — conducted by the largest Prot- 



A third outstanding belief held with varying shades of em- 
phasis by most of Middletown is that in God as completely re- 
vealed in Jesus Christ, “His divine son/’ Seventy-six per cent, 
of the 241 high school boys and 81 per cent, of the 315 girls 
marked “true” the statement, “Jesus Christ was different from 
every other man who ever lived in being entirely perfect”; 17 
and 15 per cent, respectively marked it “false,” and the re- 
mainder were “uncertain” or did not answer. This same habit 
of thought is reflected in the statement by the minister of a 
leading church that “Jesus lived the only perfectly sane human 
life the world has known. . . . Wherefore he is the world’s 
only competent leader ; other leaders are worthy in the measure 
and the degree they help their followers to get close to Christ.” 
It is noteworthy that the minister of the one religious group in 
Middletown who, though Christians, are generally regarded as 
questioning the “divinity” of Christ, is not invited with the 
other ministers to address the high school pupils at their 
chapels. The minister of the most fashionable church dis- 
posed of the Christian Scientists as “not Christians because 
they do not believe in a personal God, the deity of Christ, and 
the reality of sin.” This emphasis upon the unique importance 
of Jesus and the Bible is reflected in the statement in a sermon 
by the minister in Middletown most interested in progressive 
religious education : 

“The Bible is the greatest book in the world ; we might lose all 
the other books in the world and not be much worse off. Jesus 
is the greatest man that ever lived; we might lose all the other 
men that ever lived and not miss them much, but Jesus is indis- 

A fourth generally held belief is that in a life after death in 
“Heaven” and “Hell.” An extreme form of this belief was 
tested in the true-false questionnaire to high school juniors 
and seniors : 48 per cent, of the 241 boys and 57 per cent, of 
the 315 girls marked “true” the statement, “The purpose of re- 
ligion is to prepare people for the hereafter” ; 36 per cent, and 
35 per cent, respectively answered “false”; 12 and 7 per cent. 

estant church to ‘'promote the idea that giving happiness is one of life’s 
fundamentals, and to inculcate early a knowledge and love of the Bible by 
methods which cannot fail to intrigue the youthful mind” — says with evi- 
dent satisfaction, "and it was amazing to see the children, called upon at 
random, stand and name Bible books or recite Bible passages or chapters.” 



respectively were ‘^uncertain’’ ; while 4 per cent, of the boys and 
I per cent, of the girls did not answer."^ The literalness of this 
dominant belief in a ‘‘future life” is typified by the following 
statement from a sermon by one of the most popular preachers 
in Middletown : 

'‘Put Jesus Christ first, not for your three-score years here but 
for eternity. ... He is the Messiah and you dare not give Him 
second place in your life. . . . My God, brethren, when you look 
in His face, a whole eternity of looking in His face, what will you 
say, what will you do, if you haven't put Him first here !” 

Another expression of this belief appears in the following from 
the “calendar” of a leading church : 

“God does not want to deprive you of your hard-earned money. 
He wants you to take it to Heaven with you and enjoy it forever, 
but the only way you can do this is to convert your cash into 
character, into Christian manhood and womanhood. Then you can 
get into heaven and look upon it and enjoy it through all eternity. 
God advises you to put your money where it will be safe, and 
where you will receive some benefit from it in the next life. God 
asks that you entrust your money to Him for your own benefit. 
‘Lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven/ Rich in good works, 
generous, laying for yourself a good foundation against the time 
to come.” 

To many citizens it is unthinkable that one should seriously 
doubt a hereafter, for which, many believe, “we are simply in 
training here on earth.” “Do you mean to say,” retorted a prom- 
inent lawyer incredulously to one who questioned this com- 
monly held belief, “that you think it doesn't make any differ- 
ence in the hereafter how a man lived here?” In some of the 
working class churches this belief is held in extreme form. In 
an unpainted little building on the South Side where a Sabbath 
morning service was in progress, a man of forty-five was stamp- 
ing about the platform, shaking his fist and shouting : 

“I'm through with this dark, cold old world and I thank my 
blessed Jesus that there are a few that are saved and that we can 

Along with the sex difference here suggested, there appears to be a 
difference between children of the working class and of the business class : 
155 (three-fifths) of 254 workers’ children and twenty-eight (less than a 
third) of seventy-four children of the more prosperous business class 
parents marked this statement “true.” 



know we are saved already V He sat down and the congregation 
one by one trooped up to shake his hand. 

Another leader arose and denounced '^this vile world/^ saying, 
“I know not the day or the hour, but my back is turned on this 
life of corruptibility and I am ready to go home where Jesus is.’^ 

Belief in Hell is apparently dying out somewhat, however, even 
as compared with so short a time ago as 1890, while belief in 
Heaven seems also to be diminishing in intensity, especially 
among the business class. Eight of the eighty-three Middletown 
women from the combined working and business groups an- 
swering the question appearing below concerning thought of 
Heaven, volunteered the unsolicited information, ‘'Most peo- 
ple think of Heaven less than they used toJ^ And yet the belief 
appears to remain with most of the population. Middletown, 
one gathers, thinks less upon the hereafter than it did in 1890, 
and at the same time actively questions it little. On the one 
hand, people do not go so often to the cemetery to visit the 
graves of their dead. On the other, the subject is not urgent 
enough now to evoke the protest it did from the free-thinking 
objectors of 1890. No one today stands before his peers to 
assert as did a leading local medical man before the Ethical 
Society in 1890, “The intelligent moral man knows that no 
human being has any knowledge of a future state of personal 
existence.^’ No man today has his relatives announce over his 
open grave, as did more than one member of the Ethical So- 
ciety, that the deceased believed death to be the end. Today, so 
much is “the hereafter” taken for granted that a business class 
woman, though she rarely goes to church herself and doesnT 
“think of that sort of thing much,” remarked in an awed tone at 
the death of one of the last survivors of the Ethical Society 
that she was “shocked to learn that a fine character with such 
a beautiful home life didn't believe in God or immortality,” 

With these four beliefs in the supremacy of Christianity, of 
the Bible, of God and Jesus Christ, and in existence after death, 
all touching what is called “doctrine,” combined with at least 
a nominal belief in practical ethics, “loving one's neighbor as 
oneself,” goes commonly a belief in the institution through 
which these religious habits of thought are taught. This rev- 
erence for the church appears in such statements as : 


^^The greatest sin a man can commit is not to become a member 
of a church.” {From a sermon in a church including both work- 
ers and business class folk among its members . ) 

“And above all you must not criticize^ the church, for that is the 
cause of all dissension in it.” {Instructions to children being bap- 
tised in the largest Protestant church in Middletown.) 

“The church is an absolute necessity. For us to attend church 
services is part of our Christian duty/’ {Sermon in a business 
class church.) 

“There cannot possibly be any Christians outside the church, 
because it was for the church that Christ died.” {Sermon in a 
working class church.) 

“You cannot worship God unless you, yourself, in His House, 
bow your head and in person glorify Him who holds you in the 
hollow of His hand.” ® {Statement by the minister of a working 
class church prior to ^^go-to- church Sunday I^) 

“I do not need to lecture you people who are here, but the peo- 
ple who call themselves Christian who are today motoring and 
playing golf, who will not see the inside of a church today, they 
are traitors to the Kingdom of God.” {Sermon in a leading busi- 
ness class church.) 

It appears that there is a strong disposition to identify the 
church with religion and church-going with being religious: 
“Even if going to church doesn’t give us an3rthing else, it at 
least gives us the habit of going to church,” said a rising young 
business man speaking at a Sunday evening service in a lead- 
ing church. A working class girl announced proudly, “I haven’t 
missed Sunday School one single Sunday in seven years.” ® It 

s This emphasis upon the church building as ‘‘God^s house’^ is responsible 
for a tendency to narrow still further the identification of religion and the 
church to an identification of religion and the physical church building. 
Thus, one of the women in a growing church that has had to expand its 
Sunday School to the residence next door complained that ‘^to me Sunday 
School just isnT Sunday School when it’s held in a house and not in the 

® The emphasis upon regularity of church attendance in Middletown's 
religious life is the more understandable when we realize that, according 
to a study of 1,974 Sunday School teachers in Middletown and other parts 
of the state, who have a considerable share in shaping the religious habits 
of the oncoming generation, 96 per cent, of these teachers attend church 
services regularly, and “the typical Sunday School teacher regularly sup- 
ports two church activities in addition to the church school.” In other words, 
it is an ultra-regular group that carries on church work and helps pass 
religious habits on from generation to generation. Walter S. Athearn and 



is possibly suggestive of the importance placed upon the church 
and its support that 369 high school boys and 423 girls rated 
'‘being an active church member’’ third among a list of ten 
qualities "most desirable in a father” and third and fourth 
respectively in a somewhat similar list of qualities most desir- 
able in a mother. It is possibly significant of a varying rate of 
secularization that whereas 144 (nearly a third) of this group 
of 451 working class children selected this quality as one of 
the two "most desirable” traits in a father, only fourteen (less 
than a fifth) of a group of eighty-three children of leading 
business class people so marked it; similarly, 132 (more than a 
fourth) of this group of working class children and only nine 
(one in nine) of this business class group gave this degree of 
prominence to the same quality in a mother. Both business and 
working class mothers, however, appear to be laying less em- 
phasis in bringing up their children upon "loyalty to the church” 
than did their mothers in training them.^^ 

By way of further insight into these dominant religious be- 
liefs may be noted the answers of the sample housewives inter- 
viewed to the following three questions : 

(a) What are the thoughts and plans that give you courage 
to go on when thoroughly discouraged ? 

(b) How often have you thought of Heaven during the past 
month in this connection? 

(c) What difference would it make in your daily life if you 

associates, The Religious Education of Protestants in an American Com- 
monwealth (New York; Doran, 1923), p. 380. 

Among the girls eighty-three (a third) of the 242 working class girls 
and two of the forty business class girls included this among the two 
qualities most desirable in a father; seventy of the working class girls 
and none of the business class included it among the two qualities most 
desirable in a mother. This was the only one of the ten traits which none of 
the business class girls included among the two most desirable in a mother. 
See Table XV. 

Cf. Ch. XI on the training of children and Table XIV. The difference 
between the present generation and their mothers is probably considerably 
greater than would appear from the figures given in this table, as, in the 
case of loyalty to the church more than in that of any other item, women 
frequently said, ‘T suppose I ought to mark that ‘A,* ” and often marked 
it so, regardless apparently of whether they themselves went regularly to 
church or gave the church much thought. The proportionately greater num- 
ber of workingmen’s wives who emphasized it, however, undoubtedly re- 
flects a real difference. 



became convinced that there is no loving God caring for you ? 

Of the seventy-three working class women who answered 
question (a), the largest single group— twenty — said that it is 
their religious faith or devotions which give them courage. 
Representative of this group are the following : 

“Just thinkin’ of the Heavenly home that’s waitin’ me.” 

“I used to cry when I was discouraged, but that didn’t help any. 
Now I just git down on my knees and pray and that gives me 

“When I’m discouraged I just read the Bible and think of the 
coming of the Kingdom.” 

“I pray and think of God. I’ve got lots of faith in prayer. My 
baby was awfully sick and almost died last year; a lady came and 
prayed and folks in church went up and knelt round the altar, and 
the baby got well and is better than ever. The doctor says it was 
prayer and nothing else did it.” 

“I pray and try to think things’ll be better soon.” 

Other variants on this same theme were : 

“I get to thinkin’ of God’s plans and goodness and the need of 
His other children for me,” 

just keep tellin’ myself it was meant to be that way anyway. 
The Good Man up yonder knows what’s best.” 

“Even though things are so unequal in this world and people 
that work hardest have the least, I know God will care for me 

The next largest group — seventeen — ^turn to thoughts of 
their family and home ; 

“Usually I can get over it by thinking and planning about the 

^ 12 Answers were secured to these three questions from seventy-three, 
sixty-eight, and fifty-five working class wives respectively, and from five, 
fifteen, and nineteen business class wives. While mere verbal responses in 
this region of behavior are notoriously unreliable, the interviewers felt that 
these answers in the main reflected the spontaneous reactions of the women 
in informal conversation. The numbers answering these questions are small, 
but they are believed by the interviewers to be representative. Cf. Appendix 
on Method, regarding the method of gathering these answers. 



"'Nothing cheers me up except sometimes the children. Some- 
times the blues last a week.” 

"T just think, "When evening comes well all be together/ " 

Four o£ the other women answered that they ""almost never 
get discouraged.” Four more "‘just look around and see there’s 
lots of others worse off,” while a fifth varies this by ""just sing- 
ing and forgetting my blues.” Four others ""just go to work and 
work off” their depression. Another said, ""I just sit down and 
look facts in the face and try to see what can be done about 
them.” Two sleep off the blues, and four mentioned ""going 
somewhere and getting out among people.” Eleven said in sub- 
stance, ""Nothing helps me. I just try to grin and bear it,” while 
two more added that although ""nothing helps,” they ""some- 
times think of God and Heaven,” and an additional three ""just 
go and cry it out.” 

Of the sixty-eight working class women answering question 
(b), ""How often have you thought of Heaven during the past 
month in this connection?” the largest single group — ^thirty-one 
— answered ""often” or ""every day”: 

""Land sakes ! I don’t see how people live at all who donl cheer 
themselves up by thinkin’ of God and Heaven.” 

""My first husband died, leaving me with five children. I’m 
trying to bring them up to be good Christians, for that’s the only 
way they will ever get to see their father. I just know he’s up in 
Heaven now waiting for us 1” 

‘"Often. Seems like it’s the only place we can ever rest.” 

“The trouble is most people just live for today and don’t think 
enough about Heaven. I know there’s a Heaven and I know there’s 
lots of these people expectin’ to be there that’l) be fooled.” 

""I often wonder about the future. I study and study over the 
passages in the Bible that tell about the judgment day.” 

Sixteen said in substance, ""I ought to think of it but don’t 
much, though I reckon I ought to go there as IVe always tried 
to live right.” Twenty-one said they ""almost never” or ""never” 
give Heaven a thought : 

i»The answers of the business class women responding to this first ques* 
tion were so vague and scattered that they are not given here. 


‘‘Just today and tomorrow are the things I think of/^ 

“There^s too many other things to think about today. I hardly 
ever think of Heaven like I used to — only when a relative or 
friend dies/' 

“Almost never. I used to believe in Hell. Now I don’t know 
what to think, but, anyway, I don’t spend any time worrying about 

“I don’t never think of it. What I believe is you get what’s com- 
ing to you in this life.” 

Among the fifteen business class wives answering this ques- 
tion, all but two said they never or almost never think of 
Heaven, and of these two, the answer of one was too vague to 
be classifiable, while the other said, “Never, I guess, but I have 
an uneasy feeling I ought to.” The following are characteristic 
of the answers of the thirteen : 

“I try to think of God when I’m discouraged, but prayer doesn’t 
mean a great deal to me any more. I just never think of Heaven 
and I don’t think people think of Heaven as much as they used to. 
More practical things in religion are emphasized now. We don’t 
know anything about it anyway, so why should we think about it ?” 

“The modern trend in religion is away from this emphasis. 
Ideas of conversion and salvation were too much emphasized in 
my childhood and I’ve reacted against them.” 

Finally, with regard to question (c), “What difference would 
it make in your daily life if you became convinced that there 
is no loving God caring for you?” seven of the fifty-five work- 
ing class wives answering rejected the question outright as 
unthinkable : 

“I couldn’t ever become so bitter over things as to doubt God’s 

“It’s a sin not to believe in God and His care, and any one who 
doesn’t is just stubborn.” 

“Nobody could make me believe there isn’t a God.” 

Thirty-two more were so emphatic as to say that life would 
be intolerable or utterly changed : 

“I simply can’t understand how people live when they lose faith 
in God.” 



'T just couldn't go on. I know a man whose family were Meth- 
odists, but he didn’t believe in God and he went blind ; and he sat 
all day and said, 'My God ! My God !’ and when he’d done it one 
day for half a day suddenly he could see again. You bet I believe 
in God!” 

"I couldn’t keep on at all if I didn’t believe God cares for me! 
It’s so wrong to lose faith ; it isn’t God’s fault that there’s trouble 
in the world — it’s men’s sin.” 

''When I was left a widow with a baby on my hands I thought 
there couldn’t be a kind God, but I’ve made myself come to see 
that we must believe what the Bible tells us.” 

"If there wasn’t a God there’d be no point in life. You wouldn’t 
care how you lived or what you done. Why, there wouldn’t be no 
meaning to anything!” 

"Life would just go black.” 

"It would take all the courage out of me.” 

"How on earth would we get along without the thought of 
God? I could never have stood the last election without the 
thought of God helping the right side.” 

"Life wouldn’t hold out no hope for me or all my children. I 
just trust Him and know He won’t disappoint me.” 

"It would make a lot of difference — even though I never go to 

Nine of the fifty-five said, "It wouldn’t make much difference 
in what I do every day,” and only six said it would make no 

"I don’t know whether there’s a God or not. People ought to be 
good for the sake of being good and not for rewards.” 

"I haven’t nothing against the church or God — I just don’t 
bother about it all.” 

"There are things we can’t understand and I don’t try to.” 

One final answer voices a troubled doubt which there was rea- 
son to believe is secretly entertained by many in Middletown : 

"I don’t think He’s very loving! It isn’t so bad that people 
have to die, but it’s the way they die. As long as God can do 
something about it, I don’t see why He doesn't.^' 


Yet, whereas thirty-nine of the working class wives were 
emphatic that it would affect their lives seriously to lose belief 
in a loving God, and only sixteen said that it would make little 
or no difference, the nineteen business class women answering 
appeared to be less sure in their faith ; only eight felt the belief 
very important, while eleven said its loss would affect them little 
or none at all. Here, too, some rejected the idea of even ques- 
tioning this belief : 

“I never thought of such a thing. The fundamentals don’t 

“My ancestors were all from New England. We have never 
questioned such things,” 

“You have to believe the fundamentals ! The church means a lot 
to me, but of course it can’t help me with my children.” 

“I couldn’t imagine such a thing. I believe just as my mother 

“It would make a good deal of difference, I think. I haven’t a 
very definite personal sense of God, but guess my whole outlook 
on life is pretty much built around the idea of God.” 

For others, however: 

“My belief in a personal God and in prayer are pretty vague, but 
I have a feeling that I may be losing something important, and I 
don’t want this to happen for the sake of my little girl.” 

“The loss of the belief would make very little difference to me^ 
I’m afraid. I have frequently felt that the feeling of connection 
with a personal God was too little with me — but then I think that 
Christian theology emphasized too much God’s care for the indi- 
vidual in a material sense.” 

“The sense of a loving God is not as vivid to me as it used to 
be, nor is prayer, but I somehoy/ feel that life loses meaning with- 
out God and that a sense of God is essential for character build- 
ing. So I’m trying to give it to my children and to recover it 
myself. I am teaching the children to pray.” 

“I think, of course, that we must believe in some kind of loving 
Power or Father above us. But what really makes the difference 
is if when we go to bed at night and check over our lives we find 
we have paid our debts and been decent to other people and pro- 



vided a good home and good nourishing food for our children — 
that is what counts. My husband never prays in public or makes 
civic speeches like a lot of men. He isn’t that kind. But he pays 
all his debts and is fine and honest. He never tries to persuade 
any one to take more than they can afford in his business.’’ 

'T haven’t any belief in a personal God. It’s what we do our- 
selves that counts.” 

'T don’t think of that sort of thing much and haven’t a very 
vivid faith in God. Really I just don’t know what I think about 
all these things. I pray every night to be a good woman, a good 
wife, and a good mother — and if you’re all those, it’s all you can 

'T try to think of God — ^but prayer doesn’t mean a great deal 
to me any more.” 

Although these gropjis are small, the paints which emerge 
from the preceding answers confirm the observations based 
upon the multitude^oi staff contacts throughout the year and a 
half of the field work. First, members of the working class 
show a disposition to believe their religion more ardently and 
to accumulate more emotionally charged values around their 
beliefs. Religion appears to operate more prominently as an 
active agency of support and encouragement among this section 
of the city. A second point is the shift in the status of certain 
religious beliefs during the past generation — notably the de- 
cline, particularly among the business class, in the emphasis 
upon Heaven, and still more upon Hell,^^ A third point is the 
persistence of a vague belief in God even among many who are 
lax or skeptical in other beliefs. And finally the range of belief 
is impressive. Just as this city performs identical services in 

In this connection should be noted the seemingly greater self-conscious- 
ness of religious belief today, particularly among the business class. No 
graduating class in the Middletown high school today would print in its 
annual a '‘Class Ode” ending as does the following from one of the class 
books of the early nineties: 

“The flower of life now bursts in bloom, 

Its fragrance perfuming the air ; 

But its delicate freshness soon will be gone. 

Its priceless beauty so rare 
Will be scorched by the blaze of passion and sin, 

Will fade in the dearth of despair; 

Unless it be fed by beauties within 
And drink of the fountain of prayer.” 



its homes by processes ranging all the way from the use of 
primitive hand implements like the broom and wash-board to 
the use of electrical labor-saving devices, so in this region of 
its religion one observes many shades of belief addressed to 
this common purpose of coping with the too-bigness of life. 
Even the dominant Christian doctrine varies from such unques- 
tioning affirmations as that of the working class wife who said 
at a Mothers’ Council discussion of religious education, ‘We 
don’t need religious education in our church. In our church a 
little child only so high can tell right off the bat who God is 
and what He does and all about Him,” to the troubled ques- 
tionings of some of the business group who, retaining few 
settled convictions themselves, are unsure what to teach their 
children. One such business class mother said uneasily : 

^‘People are questioning and wondering now about religious 
matters. There are just a lot of things you have to try not to let 
yourself think about.” 

Another thoughtful mother, one of the most enterprising young 
matrons of the city, said, “We don’t go to church much, but we are 
sending our son to Sunday School and in addition giving him a 
book to read similar to the first part of Wells' Outline of His- 
tory, written, however, for children; it explains scientifically the 
geological and anthropological beginnings of the earth and man. 
I am hoping that from this he will draw his own conclusions about 
religion. I have taught him nothing about religion but simply try 
to answer all the questions he asks — ^but I have a terrific time 
doing that! In order to instruct children in religion you have to 
have a pretty definite belief. It's hard to teach them without lying 
to yourself.” 

These questioners of established beliefs have, in the main, 
to work out their adjustments in isolation in Middletown. One 
conscientious mother who marked “loyalty to the church” zero 
as a quality to be emphasized in training the young, remarked, 
“I can’t see that loyalty to the church accomplishes a thing — 
but I'd hate to have any one in town know it!” Even those 
best equipped to effect a synthesis of the new and the old often 
flounder along alone ; thus a science teacher in the high school, 
a college graduate with some post-graduate work, walking home 
from a sermon on evolution and religion, said in a bewildered 


‘T wish he had said something about Jonah. A whale’s throat 
is so it simply couldn’t swallow a man. Of course it might 

have kept Jonah in its mouth, but I don’t see how — all that time! 
And then he never said himself what he thought about evolution. 
He just said that you could believe in it and still be a Christian. 
I don’t see that that helps much.” 

Questioning of the dominant Christian beliefs in public ap- 
pears to have declined since the nineties, but one infers that 
doubts and uneasiness among individuals may be greater than 
a generation ago. 

Chapter XXI 


Middletown carries on its religious observances founded 
upon these major beliefs chiefly in the special houses of wor- 
ship noted at the outset. There were in Middletown in 1924 
forty-two of these church buildings associated with as many 
different religious groups, which ranged in size from 2,000 per- 
sons to a couple of dozen.^ 

This division into forty-two religious groups, almost all of 
them representing some branch of Christian faith but each cen- 
tering its worship in a separate building, arises first from tra- 
ditional or ''denominationaF’ differences in doctrinal beliefs or 
forms of worship diffused from without, and secondly from 
convenience of location within the city, with various economic 
and social considerations operative here as elsewhere in Mid- 
dletown’s life. Thus there are twenty-eight different denomina- 
tions represented in Middletown, divided into five Methodist 
groups, five Christian, four United Brethren, two Baptist, two 
Lutheran, and so on. A major cleft among these twenty-eight 
groups marks off Catholics and Protestants, there being roughly 
fifteen Protestants for every Catholic in the city.^ Most chil- 
dren are bom into at least nominal allegiance to one of these 

1 Negro churches are not included here. There is, in the main, a rigorous 
taboo upon the mingling of Negroes and whites in religious observances, 
including the Y.M.C.A and Y.W.C.A. 

It was difficult to discover the exact number of religious groups and 
buildings in Middletown in 1924, owing to the intermittent nature of the 
services of some of the very small groups. Making a similar count for 
1890 proved impossible. 

2 In addition to this major division into Catholics and Protestants there 
are a few smaller groups— Jews, Christian Scientists, Spiritualists, and so on. 

In view of the fact that the community is so overwhelmingly Christian 
and Protestant, the discussion in this section will be based chiefly upon these 
Protestant ^ churches as representing the dominant characteristics of the 
religious life, although services of all kinds in the one Catholic church 
were visited by the staff. 




two major groups and almost never change from one group to 
the other; likewise one is born into one of the twenty-eight 
denominational groups and tends to remain in it throughout 
life. Traditional denominational differences, for the most part, 
mean relatively little to Middletown today; the Quaker church 
in this Methodist community, for instance, has so far forgotten 
its historic traditions as to use a popular book of revival songs. 
People cling from force of habit to the church into which they 
were born and become acutely aware of differences between 
sects chiefly when such a movement as the Ku Klux Klan 
temporarily sets one group to exalting itself at the expense of 
another, or when a ‘'revivalist, ” called in “to stir up the spir- 
itual life’’ of a church, galvanizes fading differences into new 
life — as one well-known revivalist did in 1924 when he thun- 
dered at the city, “You might just as well expect standing out 
in the rain to save you as to expect ‘sprinkling’ to do you 
any good.” In general, preoccupation with the daily necessities 
of life and with such new emotional outlets as the automobile, 
together with the pressure for civic solidarity, tends soon to dull 
such occasional acute doctrinal self-consciousness. 

And yet, according to the testimony of people who have lived 
in Middletown during the entire period under study, there is 
more subtle church rivalry today than formerly, as financial and 
social competition, particularly among the business class, have 
tended to replace earlier doctrinal differences as lines of 
cleavage.® The interdenominational mingling of an earlier day 
has apparently declined somewhat with the growth and differ- 
entiation of the community, competitive building programs, and 
national denominational financial burdens. As one housewife 
remarked, “When I was a girl here in Middletown people used 
to go about to the Christmas entertainments and other special 
services at the Methodist, Presbyterian, and other churches. 
People rarely do that sort of thing today.” In the diary of a 
Middletown merchant one reads for the year 1890, “The new 

® The tendency for the church affiliation of a newcomer to be determined 
in part by its instrumental character has been pointed out; the remark of 
one young business man, an officer in a leading church, reflects a wide- 
spread attitude : “The church has done a lot for me ; when I first came 

here it got me to know and and , and there aren’t keener 

business men in town.” And yet, having made these contacts and become 
solidly established locally, this man was, in 1925, trying to resign from his 
church office. 



Christian Church dedicated today. No service at the Methodist 
or Baptist churches on account of it.^’ And later, ‘^No service 
at our church [Presbyterian] on account of the dedication of 
the new Baptist church.^’ And later still in 1890, ‘‘No service 
at our church — dedication of the Lutheran church.’^ The com- 
petitive spirit made itself felt in the church of the writer of this 
diary under the stimulus of these new churches being built 
by other denominations, and the local press in 1890 records: 
“Rev. G. A. Little preached a boom sermon at the Presbyterian 
church yesterday; presenting strong grounds in favor of build- 
ing a new church. He predicted that in five years the Presby- 
terian church would occupy the position the Presbyterian 
church in A does now and the size of our city would com- 

pare with [this same neighboring city] And sure enough, in 
1894 the Presbyterians outdid all the other new buildings by 
building the first cut stone church in the city. Another diary 
in the early nineties, that of a Catholic workman, records, “Last 

Thursday eve. went to church to hear Father W lecture on 

‘The American Citizen.’ Lots of Protestants there.” Today 
Protestants are practically never seen within the doors of the 
one Catholic church, the closing of one Protestant church for 
the services of another is almost unheard of save in the case 
of the union evening services in summer continued since 1890, 
and It is regarded as disloyal when a member of one 
church goes to a service at another."^ 

This apparent tightening of denominational lines, despite 
much talk of inter-church unity, is possibly not unrelated to 
national denominational organization. In 1925 the national 
council of one of the leading religious groups in Middletown 
passed a resolution, reprinted in the local press, that: “We re- 
gard with thanksgiving the fact that Presbyterians are respond- 
ing liberally in support of a great variety of religious, philan- 
thropic, and educational causes. We urge upon Presbyterian 
churches, however, . . . that full measure of loyalty which 
inspires the fulfillment of obligations contracted by denomina- 
tional agencies, before Presb3^erian beneficence is poured upon 

characteristic manifestation of this trend appeared in 1925 when a 
prosperous ‘‘uptown” church debarred a smaller outlying church of the 
same denomination from the use of its kitchen, which the smaller church 
had formerly used for money- raising church suppers; the uptown church 
was at the time bending all its own resources to a campaign for a new 



causes outside the Church.” The second largest Protestant 
church in Middletown, which gives $25.00 a year to the local 
Social Service Bureau and nothing to the Visiting Nurses’ 
Association — although the head of the latter remarked jocu- 
larly that she might as well move her offices down to this 
church since so many of her cases come from among its mem- 
bers — ^has three missionaries in the foreign field and contrib- 
uted through the church proper, independently of money raised 
by its missionary societies, $4,486.57 during the fiscal year 
1923-24 to all missions and benevolences, of which only $500.00 
was spent locally.^ Speaking to the Mothers’ Council on week- 
day religious education, a local minister warned the women, ‘Tt 
is no use for us to expect to get backing for week-day religious 
schools from the churches, as they all have their own financial 
interests to look out for.” Indignation was expressed by cer- 
tain business class women present at ^^the idea that our churches 
can’t support such a Middletown movement. They give heavily 
to missions and can’t help here when there’s so much to be 
done. Why can’t the Protestant churches do as much for reli- 
gious education as the Catholics ?” An influential business man, 
himself a church officer, said emphatically : 

“Every church is working for its own interests and is afraid of 
everybody else. You go to the meeting of the official board and the 
men there aren’t interested in civic affairs. They’re all just inter- 
ested in their own narrow little church concerns and seeing that 
the other churches don’t get ahead of them. I resigned all my 
church offices awhile ago, and they insisted on reelecting me, but 
I haven’t told them I’d accept. What I’m interested in is Middle- 
town and civic affairs right here.” 

While this vehement attitude probably does not express a 
majority view, it is representative of an undercurrent at work 
even among church members which is reported to be stronger 
than a generation ago. 

®The strategy of this draining of local ''works” away from the "mes- 
sage’' and organized program of Middletown churches is possibly open to 
serious question: “The thing that gave lodges a chance to get started,” 
said a Middletown business man, "was the fact that they did more systemat- 
ically the thing the churches did in only a hit-and-miss fashion, that is, look 
out for the poor and sick.” As noted elsewhere, it fs the local civic empha- 
sis, rendering vivid its religious message of “service,” that is making 
Rotary a successful rival of the churches with some of its Middletown 


The economic and social considerations which appear to be 
becoming more potent in marking off one religious group from 
another are, as suggested above, reflected in the houses of wor- 
ship. Some of these buildings are imposing structures of stone 
and brick, while others, particularly in the outlying sections 
Inhabited by the poorer workers, are weatherbeaten wooden 
shelters little larger or better built than the poorer sorts of 
dwellings. Generally, however, a church building is larger than 
a dwelling, and it commonly consists of at least four rooms : 
the main auditorium with rows of seats for from 200 to 800, 
in which the principal services are held ; a second room where the 
young are trained in the religious habits of the group; usually 
a room below fitted with cooking facilities where church suppers 
are held from time to time ; and a small pastor’s study. With 
the exception of the Catholic and one Protestant church, the 
Episcopal, the main auditorium comes to a focus in the plat- 
form or pulpit where the preacher stands. As pointed out 
above, pictures and other means of decoration demanded in the 
homes of Middletown are conspicuously absent in the Prot- 
estant churches, although when members of the city’s women’s 
clubs write papers on art they are chiefly concerned with re- 
ligious art. The buildings housing Middletown’s five largest 
religious groups were built between 1888 and 1895. While the 
high school buildings, used to diffuse the secular habits of the 
group, have taken on radically new forms and provide for new 
activities since 1890, these buildings through which chiefly the 
religious habits of thought are diffused have remained rela- 
tively unchanged.® 

But although church buildings themselves have virtually 
stood still throughout the last generation, other buildings under 
religious auspices have been built, second to none in being 
“up-to-date.” These buildings of the Young Men’s and Young 
Women’s Christian Associations not only provide places for 

® The plans of new buildings which two leading churches hope to erect 
at some time in the future include wider facilities than are contained in the 
present edifices. 

Six leading Protestant ministers were asked whether their churches were 
open daily for those wishing to drop in alone for devotions. Two reported 
their churches not open ; one open but ‘‘none to use’’ ; one open and used 
by “possibly one person a week”; one always open but not heated in 
winter ; one “always open, heated all winter, and used by possibly thirty- 
five to fifty a week.” The Catholic church is used far more frequently dur- 
ing the week. 



carrying on limited religious training and services outside the 
churches but also for sharing largely in the secular life of 
the community, offering swimming, basket-ball, weekly movies. 
Boy Scout teams, social and club life to their members. The 
school buildings of the city, also, serve as centers for an ex- 
tensive program of religious training carried on under these 
organizations.*^ Six to ten factories in the city have weekly shop 
meetings of fifteen or twenty minutes conducted each year 
from November to April under the Y.M.C.A. 

Each home of the city constitutes also traditionally a scene 
of religious activities. But it is generally recognized in Middle- 
town that the ^'family altar,’^ the carrying on of daily prayer 
and Bible reading by the assembled family group, is disappear- 
ing. Ministers of six leading churches, representing widely 
varying shades of Protestant opinion, were asked how many 
families in their respective churches have daily family prayers : 

I. (Church of 922 members.) ^‘Three or 4 per cent, probably."’ 

II. (1,600 members.) ‘‘Five per cent., if that many.” 

III. (1,250 members.) “Not over 10 per cent.” When the in- 
terviewer commented on this being a larger figure than that given 
by. some of the other pastors the minister responded, “When you 
get down in these shacks and poor homes on the South Side you 
find an amazing number with that sort of faith — ^homes Fd never 
think of leaving without reading from the Bible and prayer.” 

IV. (184 members.) “One — ^and possibly another. There’s only 
one woman who asks me to pray when I call.” 

V. (804 members.) “Eighty-eight families out of 350.” 

VT. (247 members.) “Possibly 10 per cent. — though I fancy that 
is high.” 

Still another hard-working pastor of a church frequented 
mainly by the working class said, “Not 10 per cent, of my 
people have family prayers. The fathers and children get up at 
different hours, and it is almost impossible in many homes to 
assemble the family regularly.” ® The same group of six min- 
isters were asked how many members of their respective 
churches read the Bible daily or regularly : 

See Ch. XXIII for an account of these Bible classes.^ 

8 Many families used to hold family prayers before retiring at night. The 
heavy increase in occasions for various members of the family being “out’' 
evenings now (cf. the discussion of clubs and of children in Chs. XIX 
and XI respectively) makes this increasingly difficult 


I. (922 members.) 'Tossibly 20 per cent, read it some time 
during the week.’’ 

II. (1,600 members.) ^'Twenty-five to 30 per cent. — maybe 

III. (1,250 members.) "Twenty-five per cent, at least.” 

rv. (184 members.) "We sold fifty calendars of daily Bible 
reading at five cents each at the church door, but IVe no way of 
knowing how many read their Bibles.” 

V. (&4 members.) "Eighty-eight families out of 350.” 

VI. (247 members.) "Ten per cent, would be an outside figure.” 

The religious ceremony of verbally blessing food before eat- 
ing is common, although according to the testimony of both 
ministers and church members it appears to be less frequent and 
less spontaneous than a generation ago.® 

The early custom of using the home for meetings of "prayer 
bands” and "cottage prayer meetings” survives today chiefly in 
outlying working class neighborhoods. A Middletown minister, 
addressing the Federated Club of Clubs, summarized the shift- 
ing status of the home as a place where religious rites are car- 
ried on: 

"The home is failing to instruct the children religiously as it 
should. The family altar, set times for devotional reading and dis- 
cussion, are not as common as they were formerly. People do not 
seem to be ready to acknowledge that they value such things any 
less, but excuse themselves on the ground that they are too busy. 
It has been crowded out of the family program.” 

Club meetings traditionally open with "devotions,” but only 
six of the nineteen women’s study clubs, as noted above, do so 

® This habit of ‘'saying grace” before eating is generally observed at 
important public dinners, a minister being specially invited to be present 
to perform the office. This habit is showing signs of attenuation : thus the 
Charnber of Commerce groups do not have “grace” at weekly luncheon 
meetings but only at large evening dinners such as the annual banquet; 
Rotary does not say grace except at the ceremonial Christmas luncheon; 
Kiwanis and Exchange, on the other hand, each have a clergyman mem- 
ber say grace at the regular meetings. 

It is possibly symptomatic of differential degrees of secularization in the 
habits of different sections of the group that while all but one of the 
eleven township “farmers’ institutes” were opened with an “invocation” by a 
clergyman, the county farmers’ institute held in the Chamber of Com- 
merce in Middletown opened instead with a professional funny man. 



As in the place of religious observances, so also in the time 
set aside for them, conflicting trends are at work. On the one 
hand, other activities of the community as they become more 
secularized are forcing upon religion a narrowing place and 
time specialization: as religious rites tend to concentrate in 
church and allied buildings rather than pervade home, club, and 
civic and social groups, so, too, there is a tendency to center 
them more exclusively in the one day in seven that traditionally 
'‘belongs to the Lord.’’ Despite the efforts of the Ministerial 
Association to keep Wednesday evening free from other com- 
munity activities for prayer meeting, the community no longer 
makes any effort, even outwardly, to observe this former cus- 
tom; instead, the prayer meeting occasionally alters the hour 
or even the day of its meeting to give place to other events. 
Even special services must make way; the press reported in 
1925, ‘'The [union] prayer service, a part of the Week of 

Prayer program, to have been held tonight at the church, 

has been postponed because of the dedication of the gym- 

nasium.” The increasingly non-religious character of any 
church social meetings which may be held during the week is 
part of this same trend. 

On the other hand, just as organized religion, being forced 
back into the church buildings, is reaching out into the schools 
and shops through the Christian Associations, church clubs, 
and allied organizations, so through these same agencies it is 
reestablishing itself during the six days of the week at the 
same time that the more traditional religious observances are 
being increasingly confined to the seventh. 

Both processes, the tendencies for other community activities 
to invade the traditional preserves of the church and for the 
church in turn to adapt itself by taking over extra-religious ac- 
tivities, appear in the battle raging for the possession of the 
stronghold of religious tradition — the Christian Sabbath. The 
Sabbath of 1890 is vividly described by one housewife: 

“We went to Sunday School, morning church, young people’s 
society, and evening church — every week. When we girls in our 
family missed Sunday School we weren’t allowed to go out in the 
evening all the following week. We weren’t allowed to play games 

For the attempt of the churches to meet community activities on their 
own ground through an elaborate network of clubs, see Ch. XXIII. 



or even to crack nuts or make candy on Sunday. Father would 
never take pictures on Sunday. We couldn’t read a newspaper or 
any weekday reading, but only things like our Sunday School 

Such rigorous Sunday observance was far from general in 
1890, but this reflects the sort of Sabbath that many God- 
fearing families sought to maintain. There was even a law 
upon the state statute books that : 

^‘Whoever, being over fourteen years of age, is found on the 
first day of the week, commonly called Sunday, at common labor, 
or engaged in his usual avocation (works of charity and necessity 
only excepted), shall be fined in any sum not more than ten nor 
less than one dollar.” 

Even as late as 1892 an ordinance was passed in Middletown 

"Any person convicted of having, on Sunday, within said city, 
pitched quoits, or coins, or of having played at cricket, bandy, 
cat, townball, or any other game of public amusement, or of hav- 
ing discharged any gun, pistol, or other firearms, shall be fined 
therefor in any sum not less than one dollar nor more than five 

But cracks were beginning to appear even then. In July, 1890, 
the local press notes : 

"The universal opinion among our patrons of ball is that we do 
not want and will not have any Sunday games. . . . It is to be 
hoped that the manager and board of directors of the Middletown 
team will see matters in this light and strictly observe the wishes 
of the people.” 

In 1892 a compromise was reached and a sacred concert was 
regularly combined with the ball game, ‘'the band playing at 

The press noted in 1890: “Sunday is becoming more a day 
of recreation than of rest every week.” In 1893 l^^e Trades 
Council raised money for the Homestead Defense Fund by 
staging Enforcing the Sunday Law in Middletown, A Farce. 
In a Sunday afternoon labor lecture in 1892 the speaker said, 
“The day has gone by when Sunday gatherings of this nature 
can longer be decried by the church. The purpose of these gath- 



erings is as laudable and elevating as is to be found within the 
walls of a church.’’ In the industrial city of igoo, surging with 
its new population, the press gives half a column Monday morn- 
ing to reporting, with no unfavorable comment, a Sunday 
morning cock fight between cocks put forward by the iron 
workers and by the glass workers. Sunday morning trade 
union meetings were reported regularly in 1900. 

Today ministers still insist that ^^the Christian Sabbath be- 
longs to the Lord,” and *‘if it is His day, then He has a right 
to say how we shall spend it”; a Lord’s Day Alliance speaker 
assures Middletown that ‘'it is the European Sunday that has 
brought about the downfall of Germany and Russia”; and in 
announcing the coming of Branch Rickey, manager of the St. 
Louis Cardinals, to lecture under the Lyceum of the Ministerial 
Association, a church calender states, “Mr. Rickey never plays 
on Sunday.” But, meanwhile, advertising pages continue to 
urge Sunday motoring; games are played throughout the city 
parks on Sunday, and more men play golf at the Country Club 
Sunday morning than any other half day of the week, though 
organized Sunday baseball is still condemned by churches and 
by a good share of the population. In 1924 the Gun Club shifted 
its weekly shoots to Sunday tentatively, apprehensive of public 
objection, but no objection was made and the experiment be- 
came permanent. 

Just as the habits of daily prayer by small children and of 
sending children to Sunday School, as pointed out below, per- 
sist more strongly than the praying and church-going habits 
of the adults, so it is in the Sunday leisure-time outlets for small 
children that Middletown is most conservative : the heavy week- 
day programs of school, Y.M.C.A., and extracurricular life 
stop utterly on Sunday. A number of churches held Sunday 
School in the long Sunday afternoons of 1890, but today the 
afternoon is usually swept clear of services. Ministers of six 
leading churches were asked, “Does your church attempt to 
offer any Sunday afternoon or evening program other than 
the six-thirty Young People’s meeting to interest young people 
who might otherwise go to the movies?” Three answered, 
“Nothing” ; one answered, “Only the Intermediate’s Christian 
Endeavor at four” ; one, “The Christian’ Endeavor ers give a 
late tea one Sunday a month that extends on into the Christian 
Endeavor service, but that’s all”; and one said, “Yes, three 



things: we conduct the Sunday School at the Orphans’ Home; 
our young people visit and sing at the hospital and other places 
— often as many as four autos full of them; and prayer bands 
meet here and in the homes. I keep pushing this work and urge 
our young people to form prayer bands and report their num- 
bers to me/’ The Y.W.C.A. holds vesper services on four or 
five Sundays immediately preceding Christmas and Easter, 
and a monthly Sunday afternoon social hour. 

Many mothers spoke of Sunday as a “difficult” day for the 
children : 

“All the other days of the week they are busy and active and 
have plenty to do, but on Sunday they have nothing to do and 
nearly tear the roof off. I let them go to the movies because, while 
I don’t like the idea and was never brought up that way myself, 
I’m glad to get them out of the house !” 

“Sunday is such a tedious day for the children. My daughter 
sews, which I was never allowed to do, but I don’t let them play 
cards or dance or go to the movies on Sunday yet. I give way at 
some new place each year.” 

All along the line parents may be seen fighting a rear-guard 
fight, each father and mother trying to decide “what’s right” : 
one family lets the children swim on Sunday at their summer 
place but not play golf ; another does not approve of Sunday 
card playing and attendance at football games, but the parents 
have begun both in order to keep close to their son ; others make 
popcorn on Sunday but not candy; others object to Sunday 
evening bridge but allow Mah Jong. Meanwhile, although there 
were in 1890 no Sunday theatrical performances, Sunday is 
today the biggest day of the week with the movies, and these 
Sunday evening audiences are the oncoming generation. The 
Sunday night house of a leading exhibitor is almost solidly 
young people, and unless he can attract boys and girls and 
young men and women on that evening, he states, his house is 
empty. One popular high school boy whose family forbade his 
going on Sunday night complained to his parents that he was 
“out of it at school on Monday because everybody talks about 
the new shows they saw with their Sunday evening dates and I 
can’t ever talk about any of the new shows until Tuesday.” It 
is possibly indicative of a differential rate in the breaking down 
of the taboo on “Sabbath breaking” that eighty-three (a third) 



of the 254 working class children and only twelve (a sixth) of 
the seventy-four children of the more prosperous business class 
parents in the three upper years of the high school wrote *'true"^ 
after the statement, ''It is wrong to go to the movies on Sun- 
day^"; suggestive, too, is the fact that only 23 per cent, of the 
241 boys marked this statement "'true’^ as against 40 per cent, 
of the 315 girls. With this generation the ''Sabbath'' of 1890 
is being increasingly secularized into the "Sunday holiday,^' and 
the males appear to be throwing off the older tradition, as 
noted elsewhere in respect to other habits, more rapidly than 
the females. 

Like art and music, religious observances appear to be a less 
spontaneous and pervasive part of the life of the city today, 
while at the same time this condition is being met by more 
organized, directed effort to foster and diffuse these values. 

Chapter XXII 


At the head of each of these forty-two religious groups is 
the man who gets his living by ''ministering to” that particular 
group. His duties are varied. As the use of verbal symbols 
holds a prominent place in these religious activities, he is first 
and foremost expected to be a good talker; this capacity is 
widely exploited ; ^ he is called upon to talk on short notice 
upon "President McKinley,” "Thrift,” or "Six Years After the 
War,” at the D.A.R.^s annual dinner, at the dedication of a 
.public building, or at a meeting in behalf of anti-tuberculosis 
work. He is also expected to be a "sympathetic pastor,” a "good 
fellow among the men,” and to "draw the young people.” 

Pastoral activities are changing markedly among the busi- 
ness class ; there is apparently considerably less overt religious 
behavior during pastoral calls — ^kneeling and praying and read- 
ing from the Bible — ^than was customary even as recently as a 
generation ago, and the pastoral call is tending to attenuate 
among those who are not "in trouble” to a brief social call. 
Among the working class the earlier pastoral call is still com- 
mon, but other agencies, such as the secularized organized char- 
ity bureau and visiting nursing service, are tending to diminish 
the role of the minister even when families are in trouble. 
The shrinkage of this pastoral activity eventuates in at least 
two things : increased emphasis upon preaching as the principal 
means of drawing young and old, and the scattering of the 
preacher's energies among various kinds of civic work as he 
mingles with the men. In pioneer Middletown, as noted in 
Chapter III, a preacher was one of the major sources of infor- 

1 In an editorial characterization of one of the leading ministers in 1924 

a local paper begins : ^'Dr. is a brilliant pulpit man, a sound thinker, and 

a splendid speaker. His sermons always are of the highest type, and he 
has been greatly in demand among the neighboring churches for pulpit talks.” 
Similarly, the diary of a prominent citizen notes in November, 1890: “Rev. 
— — preached for us morning and evening. Think we would be satisfied 
with him — good plain speaker — clear voice. Hear every word he says— 
so with even those who are hard of hearing.” 



mation in the community. The increase in popular education, 
the heavy diffusion of new channels of information, and the 
general sophistication of Middletown,^ together with the decline 
in interest in the general discourse noted in connection with 
changing lecture habits, tend to dwarf the relative significance 
of the sermon in Middletown’s life at the same time that it is 
becoming relatively more important among the things done by 
ministers with declining pastoral work. “When are you going 
to carry out your threat to come hear me preach?” asked a 
minister in a bantering tone of the man across from him at a 
civic club luncheon. “Well, I read your fiction in the Monday 
morning papers ^ and that’s all I can stand,” the other rallied. 
There was a chorus of laughing comment over the word “fic- 
tion,” and one prominent church member said under his breath, 
“Stick to it, Ed — ^you’re an honest man !” 

These men must usually prepare two speeches for each Sun- 
day and one for the mid-week prayer meeting. Interviews with 
six leading Protestant ministers revealed all of them hard- 
pressed to talk so much. 

“The trouble is,” said one of them wearily, “that these people 
don’t realize that a constantly changing presentation of the Gospel 
is needed in a world changing as fast as ours is. A man was in 
here just this week saying to me, ‘We don’t want any of this mod- 
ernist business. What we want is the plain old Gospel.’ The older 
generation in this church are about fifth graders, their children 
are high school graduates, and their children are beginning to go 
to college ; it may be another generation or so before the general 
level will be high enough so that people will expect a minister to 
have time and energy for study if he is to be worth shucks as a 

The reading of these six men is all done “on the run.” “My 
only chance is late at night before I drop off asleep,” said one 
of the most energetic of the six. “It’s not really reading, I’m 
too tired, and then, too, I read for sermon material rather than 
giving myself up to what the author has to say.” ^ 

^Cf. in Ch. XVIII the Middletown man who prefers to listen to radio 
sermons because there is no preacher in town as good. , 

® Verbatim reports of sermons as sent in by the ministers appear in the 
Monday morning paper. ^ 

^ These six leading ministers read : 

I. “One book a month and dip into others that my wife often finishes. 
I'd be snowed under if it weren't for my wife's reading. I read four or five 


All the ministers in the larger Middletown churches feel 
the constant strain of their scattered and often irrelevant 
activities at a time when the church and Sunday sermons are 
meeting increasing competition in the fuller life of the city 
today. One of them summarized the outstanding features of his 
year’s work in 1924 as follows: “Nine hundred and fifty-nine 
pastoral calls of ten minutes or more, 133 sermons, loi talks 
(high school, civic clubs, prayer meeting), thirty-five addresses 
(commencement. Memorial Day, etc.), twenty-nine funerals, 
thirty-four weddings, innumerable ’phone calls and letters, the 
latter all longhand as I have no secretary.” Another stated as 
the chief tangible aspects of his four years’ work in Middle- 
town: “Three hundred and eighty-six sermons, about 100 
special talks or addresses, about 2,700 pastoral calls reaching 
about 6,000 persons, eighty-nine weddings, 1 1 1 funerals, 403 
additions to the church.” 

These ministers of the six leading Protestant churches, with 
two or three others, including the Catholic priest, are prac- 
tically the only ministers the Middletown business class ever 
goes to hear. None is a local man; the fathers of all but one 

books during my summer vacation.” Asked for the five outstanding books 
on any subject read during the past year, he mentioned Jefferson’s Five 
Great Controversial Subjects, ^‘Fosdick’s new book,” “Studderd Kennedy on 
Lies — dandy,” Hutton’s Victory Over Victory. “I didn’t finish Robinson’s 
Mind in the Making — couldn’t make much out of it.” 

2. “Two or three a month.” The only book he could recall was Seeing 
Straight in Sunday School. 

3. “About one a week the year through — ^though I have to depend on 
my vacation to bring it up to that. The outstanding books this year have 
been Mind in the Making — ^that’s fine! — and What Is Man? by J. Arthur 
Thompson — ^good!” He could not recall others. 

4. “Not five a month. It bothers me a lot not to read more. Among the 
outstanding things are Studderd Kennedy's The Wicket Gate and Sheila 
Kaye-Smith’s End of the House of Alard. He had difficulty in remember- 
ing others. 

5. “I airn to read one a week and just about do it.” The only outstanding 
book ^mentioned was George MulleFs Life of Trust — ^“a great biography!” 

6. “Not more than one a month, though that’s chiefly because my eyes 
bother me. It’s hard to pick; the list includes Corbin’s Decline of the Mid- 
dle Class, Wallace’s Sociological Studies in the Bible, Robinson’s Mind in 
the Making, the volume on the Reformation in the Cambridge Modern His- 
tory and also the volume on the Puritan era in England, a book by a Col- 
umbia professor on social forces, Ross’ Social Control, Starr’s Talks on 
Geology, and I re-read James’ Pragmatism and Darwin’s Descent of Man?* 
It is worth noting that this man is the pastor of the small, unpopular 
liberal church. 

It should be borne in mind that these leading ministers stand almost 
alone at the top of the local profession. 


were of the working class ; two of the six worked as working 
men before entering the ministry, two others were teachers, and 
the other two have always been ministers; two are graduates 
of large Eastern universities, three of small Middle Western 
colleges, and one is not a college man ; one holds a master’s de- 
gree and all have studied at divinity schools, three of them 
graduating; three of the six have traveled out of the United 
States ; all are Masons ; and all but one has been preaching in 
Middletown from four to ten years. The living of these six 
leading men ranges from about $3,000 (the salary of the 
mayor, twice that of a policeman, half again as much as 
that of the city librarian or a high school teacher, and two or 
three times that of an elementary teacher) to $5,200.® It 
compares favorably with that of perhaps 40 per cent, of the 
eighty members of Rotary and a considerably higher percentage 
of the other civic clubs.® The amounts earned by the remaining 
thirty-odd Middletown ministers, again with only two or three 
exceptions, fall off sharply from this high plateau; in many of 
the outlying churches attended by the working class it often 
becomes, particularly when ‘‘times are bad,” a nip and tuck 
matter to raise the minister’s meager salary. Conditions have 
not changed markedly among some of the smaller of these 
struggling congregations since 1890, when an announcement 
in the press extended “thanks to the kind donors who con- 
tributed $32.50 to the church for the purpose of making 

a present to their minister, to whom the ladies presented a fine 
suit of clothes. The reverend gentleman was delighted with 
the useful present.” 

Emphasis in selecting a minister upon his success with young 
people and with men indicates points of strain in the church. 
In general Middletown ministers are more highly esteemed by 
the women than by the men. The men usually accept the re- 
ligious beliefs of the civilization in which they live, but as one 
hears their conversation over a period of many months one gets 
a distinct impression that religion wears a film of unreality to 
many of them and that its advocates in the pulpit constitute a 
group apart. Absolute proof in this region is impossible; the 

*5 Where ‘‘parsonage’* is “thrown in” with a minister's salary it is here 
counted as approximately the equivalent of $1,000 additional salary, on the 
basis of rents in Middletown. 

® Cf. Ch. VIII for the distribution of those getting Middletown’s living 
by income tax returns and also the incomes of the sample workers. 


bdiavior and folk talk of the people must be the chief guide. 
Such talk for the most part reflects much the same attitude as 
the poem read at the anniversary of the Masonic lodge in the 
nineties which referred to that past time when “preachers "rode 
circuit’ on horseback like men” : 

In regard to the censorship of books and movies a Middletown 
editorial asks, ^"Who is qualified to be censor?” and continues by 
way of answer, “Not police officers, not prosecuting attorneys, 
not single-minded professional critics who see bad in most of the 
things others pronounce good and good in the things that others 
pronounce bad, not ministers of the gospel, not extremists of good 
or evil — ^not anybody who by instinct and training may be unable 
to look at literature and art except through the eyes either of 
prejudice, ignorance, or inexperience.” 

Speaking of a local man who, after breaking one golf club, 
topped his next stroke, the local press said in 1924, “Fortunately 
no ministers or women were present.” 

Another press article was headed, ""They Preach on Sunday But 
They All Have Their Recreations,” and continued, “Any one who 
has an idea that just because various local citizens happen to be 
ministers and preachers of the gospel they aren’t able to enjoy 
themselves, has another thought coming. , . . Middletown’s 
preachers do the same things that other persons do. Baseball 
games and other athletic exhibitions, the theater, when the pro- 
gram of the day is a worthy one, the civic clubs and the like help 
the local preachers to remember that there’s plenty of joy in life.” 

A group of half-a-dozen influential business men, all college 
graduates, were discussing the ministry : ""I’d never advise a boy 
to go into it,” said one emphatically. ""I never heard a preacher 
yet,” added another, “who didn’t make me mad by standing up 
there where he knows you can’t talk back and saying things he 
doesn’t really believe and he knows he can’t prove.” The general 
opinion of the group was that the ministry is ""played out.” 

""What’s a minister without his salary, anyway ?” asked a labor 
union man of a group sitting about talking before a labor meet- 
ing. ""You take away his salary and he’s nothin’! When he gets 
a chance to make more money at another place he calls it a call 
from God!” {Laughter,) 

{Another man.) ""Yes, and you take these churches — what 
do they work for? Take the Presbyterian church — what does it 
work for ? For the Presbyterians ! Even the Baptist church is the 


{First speaker.) “Yes, it is, but I like Rev. [the Baptist min- 
ister] — there's a preacher not afraid to soil his hands! He’s as 
common as you or me. He’d touch a corpse or anything. Do you 
remember when that man shot his wife and children and then 
hisself ? Rev. went there and even helped lay ’em out.” 

Among the business class there is some tendency to “help out” 
a minister with a free membership in the Country Club or little 
salary gifts “on the side.” This slightly patronizing attitude in 
matters involving money is shared to some extent by both hus- 
bands and wives. Referring to a former minister’s wife who had 
had some money of her own, one business class wife remarked, 
“It was so nice to have a minister’s wife one did not pity.” 

The conspicuous omission of ministers from Rotary is pos- 
sibly indicative of the attitude of Middletown business men : some 
explain the omission by saying that if any minister were included 
it would have to be the pastor of the prominent millionaire manu- 
facturers, and since they are Universalists, the more orthodox 
would object; others say simply that inter-church rivalry is too 
keen to allow the selection of any one minister for this important 
recognition ; the upshot of the situation is that no minister is in- 
cluded among these leaders of the city. 

Such insights gleaned here and there, although they reflect 
accurately the more frequently expressed opinion, must be 
set over against a widespread attitude of respect and in many 
cases warm affection and esteem for these religious leaders, 
especially among the women of Middletown : 

“I like Mr. ,” said one woman. “It always makes me feel 

better just to meet him on the street.” 

A 1924 editorial commending a minister called to another city 
says, “The fact that he is a minister of the gospel has not kept 

Mr. from mixing with his fellow men in the many and varied 

avenues of life outside the church. He often has been referred to 
as a regular ‘he man.’ ” 

A prominent member of Kiwanis said of his new minister, “My 
boy and girl used to go to church under protest and sit and read 
their Sunday School papers through the sermon, but now my boy 
says, ‘Dad, I want to stay to church. A big, regular man like Dr. 
is worth hearing.’ ” 

“I’ve known just two preachers that were real fellows,” re- 
marked a young business man, “ and — r— , and of the two 


could drive his car a little faster, play a better game of golf, 

and was not averse to using a little judicious profanity on oc- 
casion. He always wound up his sermons at quarter to twelve, no 
matter where he was, and he always wound them up with a bang, 
too. We were the first church in town to let out.'^ He had the 
actor's instinct to quit while they still want more. He was a real 
business man.” 

When a minister formerly in Middletown returned to the city 
for a single service, the church was packed to welcome him and 
many spoke warmly of what he had meant to them. 

Several mothers spoke with appreciation of the work of the 
pastor of a small business class church among the boys. 

That the somewhat condescending tone of many of the above 
remarks represents a substantial sentiment in Middletown, how- 
ever, may be inferred from the fact that at least four leading 
ministers expressed bitterness over their work : 

‘TVe been wanting to get away for a long time,” said one, re- 
ferring to a source of difficulty. '"Of course I can stay and fight 
them, but I don't want to leave here with an unfinished fight on 
my hands, and rather than run the risk of having to stay here to 
see a fight through, I prefer not to start it.” 

Another man in speaking of his difficulties said again and again 
by way of explanation of his ^^not throwing the whole thing up 
and leaving,” '‘But I won't be a quitter ! I won't be a quitter 1” 

From both ministers and their congregations an outsider gets 
an impression of the ministers as eagerly lingering about the 
fringes of things trying to get a chance to talk to the men of 
the city who in turn are diffident about talking frankly to them. 
On the one hand more than one man explained, as did a member 

^This qualification of winding up his sermon so as to dismiss early has 
become an acute criterion of preachers in this day of the automobile: *'1 
don’t like our new preacher,” said a worker’s wife. “He talks too long — 
keeps you there till 12:05 or .12:10, and when you get home and have 

dinner and do the dishes your afternoon’s gone. Now look at Rev. ; 

in summer he’s through at 11:30 — ^just an hour. All the churches ought to 
do that.” A business class woman, walking home from a socially prominent 
church, said in a tone of resignation '“We’ve been spoiled by our former 
pastor. He always let us out at a quarter to twelve and we were home early. 
It is hard to have the service hold till twelve or after.” 

In at least two churches the minister was heard to announce at the close 
of the Sunday School that he wanted all present to stay to church and 
would promise to let them out “at a quarter to twelve sharp !” 


of Rotary, 'Tm afraid to talk to a preacher and tell him what 
I really think because heM think me an atheist or something 
like that,'’ and on the other hand one of the keenest ministers 
lamented to a staff member regarding the business men of the 
town, whom he was desperately anxious to get closer to, 
'‘They'll talk to you, but they won’t talk to me because I'm a 
minister — and it's the same with all the other ministers in 

The week-by-week minutes of the Middletown Ministerial 
Association over a period of fourteen years from September, 
1910, through December, 1924,® offer perhaps the most con- 
crete evidence on the activities and general outlook of Middle- 
town ministers in this day when many of their traditional activ- 
ities are being drained off by secular agencies. The meetings 
consist of "devotional exercises” (prayer, Bible reading, and 
occasionally devotional talks by members) ; passing of resolu- 
tions of sympathy, thanks, approval, or endorsement on various 
occasions; listening to talks by members of the Association, 
local citizens, or outside speakers ; and discussing various ques- 
tions of general interest to the members. The work done by 
the Association during these fourteen years divides itself into 
activities initiated elsewhere but endorsed publicly by the Asso- 
ciation; activities endorsed privately by the Association; ac- 
tivities inaugurated by the Association involving no sustained 
work; and problems or movements actively worked at by the 
Association more or less steadily during the period. 

Among the activities which the Association did not initiate 
but on which it passed a vote of approval are: Certain cam- 
paigns: for Y.M.C.A., Y.W.C.A., Boy Movement, Near East 
Relief, Anti-Tuberculosis Association, various evangelistic 
meetings. Red Cross, Community Chest; celebration of certain 
organized "days” and "weeks”;® the work of certain organi- 

® The meetings were held weekly or bi-weekly during this entire period 
except for two months each summer. The minutes for these fourteen years, 
the only time for which they are available, were read in detail. No similar 
records could he obtained for the 1890 period. 

All ministers in Middletown, with the exception of one leading minister 
who resigned because “the Association wasn’t doing anything” and some 
of the ministers in the very small outlying working class churches, are 
members of the Association. 

® Father and Son Week, Children’s Week, Life Insurance Week, Health 
Week, Week of Prayer, Poppy Week, Good Will Sunday, Anti-Tubercu- 
losis Day, Anti-Saloon Field Day, Go-to-Church Sunday, Bundle Day (for 



nations: Woman’s Franchise League, Family Altar League, 
Lord’s Day Alliance, Swear Not League, the Veterans of 
Foreign Wars in ^^keeping history correct in the school books,” 
American Bible Society, Humane Society; and certain other 
diverse movements: work of city officials in suppressing vice, 
6 P.M. Saturday closing movement, appointing delegate to 
Trades Council, action of Cemetery Board against Sunday 
funerals, saner Saturday night, promotion of the Middletown 
Chautauqua, Church federation, Passion Play for local audi- 
torium, Lyceum lectures, inviting W.C.T.U. convention to 
Middletown, visit of Field Secretary of World’s Sunday School 
Union to Middletown, selection of Middletown as location for 
a state basket-ball tournament. 

Outstanding among the activities which it endorsed privately 
but on which it did not make its endorsement public are the 
League of Nations and a movement to secure a reform mayor 
to clean up the city. 

The list of activities inaugurated by the Association during 
these fourteen years is : closing of post office on Sunday, open- 
ing of all churches at 1 1 a.m., evangelistic campaigns, securing 
speakers at County Infirmary and Children’s home. Armistice 
Day service, petition for a special session of the legislature to 
correct the law holding it not a crime to possess liquor, singing 
of church choirs at the hospital, community school of religion, 
daily vacation Bible School, parent meetings in the churches to 
discuss the problem of vice, investigation as to whether Middle- 
town laboring men get one day’s rest in seven, publication of 
statement to inform the Negro vote of the true meaning of a 
constitutional convention, resolution that there should be more 
care in selection of books for public library, protests against 
certain motion pictures. 

The interests at which the Association worked openly and 
persistently during this period are: doing away with Sunday 
motion pictures, prohibition, keeping Wednesday evening free 
from social engagements for prayer meeting, religious educa- 
tion in the schools, opposing prize fights, and discouraging 
marriages by justices of the peace. 

The following excerpts are characteristic of the Association 
at work : 

the Near East), Decision Day, Prison Day, Lafayette Day, Civic Right- 
eousness Day, Mercy Sunday, Patriotic Sunday, Sabbath Observance Day. 


^Tt was decided that the Chairman appoint a committee of 
three whose duty would be^not to raise money but to take such 
action as would show the interest and sympathy of this Asso- 
ciation in the starving millions in China.” 

"‘A motion was carried that the Ministerial Association send a 
telegram to the miners" and operatives" conference at Washing- 
ton asking them to invoke the Divine Wisdom in deciding the 
questions before them."" 

"'A statement was made that the Auditorium [owned by 

the Middletown Y.M.C.A.] had been used by the High School 
pupils on the previous Sabbath for playing basket-ball, thus 
desecrating the sanctity of the Sabbath Day. This matter was 
referred to the Social Betterment Committee."" [Next meeting.] 
‘'The Social Betterment Committee reported that the auditorium 
would not again be used in violating the Sabbath. . . . [At the 
same meeting.] ‘Tt was voted that we as an Association endorse 
the Boy Movement Campaign for our city and pledge our coopera- 
tion through a committee empowered to represent this Associa- 

“The vice conditions in our city were pronounced deplorable 
. . . and a vote was taken by common consent that we as an 
association keep our ears and eyes open for an opportunity to 
move versus this deplorable state of affairs."" 

“Mr. mentioned the fact that no real demonstration had 

been made in the interests of the Sunday Schools of Middletown 
and that a general plan that would involve a parade and all-day 
gathering of the Sunday Schools would be good."" 

A vigorous discussion on local political corruption was fol- 
lowed by the vote that “Bro. be instructed to present to Mr. 

an urgent request from this Association to become a candi- 
date for Mayor and this action be withheld from the newspapers."" 
At the next meeting a rival candidate, getting wind of this re- 
quest, asked leave to address the Association, and “Mr. "s 

statement having been heard, the Association went on record that 
any discussion of any candidates that was indulged in last Mon- 
day morning was altogether impersonal and without view to action 
now or in the future."" 

“The Social Betterment Committee, reported by Dr. , told 

about the psychology of defeat and discussed our attitude toward 

Mayor , spoke on the subject to the end that as individuals 

we receive and encourage every good word and work of the 


Mayor but that official expression of the Association he post- 
poned until some fruits of repentance are manifest/' 

Individually the ministers make further efforts to share in 
the life of the city. Thrust into an undesired aloofness as 
earthly representatives of an ideal popularly regarded as im- 
possible of achievement by “poor, weak human nature," 
charged with persuading the community to adopt a way of life 
at variance with its current concerns, they seize upon every 
opportunity which seems to offer a means of sharing in the 
life about them without yielding too much of the principles to 
which they . are committed. Two attend Ad. Club lunch- 
eons, one works in the dominant political organization, one 
testified at the state capital in the trial to impeach the judge of 
the local Circuit Court, and one is the head of the State Na- 
tional Guard. One tries to get the high school to change the 
last line of its cheer from “the whole darned team" to “our 
whole team"; another, hesitant to start a forum for fear it 
might cause dissension, tries to organize the collection and dis- 
tribution of the old periodicals of his church to the poor ; and yet 
another, eager to share in the noon shop talks in the factories 
of the city under the Y.M.C.A., a man who “just puts his foot 
up on a piece of machinery and talks along as common as an 
old pair of shoes," is not asked to talk again, because, “while 
he talks good sense, the men don't like it because he doesn’t ap- 
peal to their emotions and isn’t religious enough for them and 
they dislike his unorthodoxy." As one energetic minister re- 
marked, “I’ve never been so ‘stopped’ and perplexed in my life. 
I just don’t know where to take hold of the situation here." 

Leaders of the Y.M.C.A. and the Y.W.C.A. are not chosen 
like the ministers mainly for their ability to talk well, but to 
draw the young people, chiefly through athletics, to organize 
clubs, and to carry on executive work. The directors and assist- 
ant directors of both organizations in Middletown are college 
graduates and have had experience in similar work outside of 
Middletown.^^ They cooperate to some extent with the work of 
the churches and are becoming increasingly prominent as re- 
ligious leaders in Middletown. 

This^ man considered the renting of an office in a down-town business 
building in an effort to get closer to the dominant interests of the city. 

See Ch. XXIII for discussion of the volunteer teachers of Sunday 
Schools and Y.M. and Y.W.C.A. Bible classes. 


Associated with and supporting each minister are the mem- 
bers of his church. Children “join the church” for the most 
part between the ages of nine and seventeen. Slightly over half 
of all members join before they are sixteen.^^ A cross-section 
of church membership indicates a preponderance of females ; in 
the largest Protestant church in 1924, 62 per cent, of the mem- 
bers were females; in another prominent church 60 per cent, 
were females. That this ratio has held fairly steadily for the 
past thirty years is indicated by the fact that in the first of these 
churches in 1893, 64 per cent, of the members were females.^^ 

An attenuation of church membership vows similar to that 
observed in lodge membership is apparently in progress. Virtu- 
ally anybody can join a church simply by signifying his inten- 
tion to do so/^ and once in, it is practically unknown for any 

12 Based upon Athearn’s distribution of 2,302 Sunday School teachers and 
officers in this state according to age of joining the church and also of a 
sample of 6,194 members of five Protestant denominations in forty-three 
states ; in the former group 56 per cent, joined before they were sixteen and 
in the latter 59 per cent. {Op. cit., pp. 372-4.) According to Atheam the “me- 
dian age of joining the church is 14.9 years. The predominant group, how- 
ever, joined church at twelve, thirteen, and fourteen years.” (O/). cit., p. 64.) 
It is noteworthy as possibly having a bearing upon the fact commonly re- 
marked upon in Middletown that “you can’t tell the difference, from the way 
they act, between church members and those that don’t belong,” that although 
legally in this culture a minor may not make binding contracts and a girl un- 
der sixteen is regarded as below the “age of consent,” it is nevertheless con- 
sidered proper for a child of ten or twelve to make a presumably lifelong 
contract by joining the church. In fact, early “decisions” are encouraged; 
sermons frequently urge them upon children ; says a Middletown church cal- 
endar regarding the allied decision to support the church financially; “The 
question sometimes comes, At what age should children be taught the practice 
of tithing? Very early in life, when the brain is plastic, memory retentive, 
and impressions permanent. The tithing child puts God first Later he 
realizes he has been obeying Christ’s command, 'Seek ye first the Kingdom 
of God.’” 

The point here is not the rightness or wrongness of joining the church 
at one age or another but simply the disparity in point of view regarding 
the age at which one becomes competent to enter contractual relations in 
different segments of Middletown’s life. 

IS This was the only church for which membership records for the early 
period were available. 

Only one case indicating any selection came to the attention of the re- 
search staff. In this case a group of the active men in a prominent church 
met for supper with their pastor at a downtown hotel preliminary to select- 
ing likely men to “win” for the church. A list of names of men, chiefly new- 
comers to Middletown not affiliated with any church, was read, and some 
one present engaged to interview each one. When one name was read, 
one of the church elders present mentioned the fact that “he doesn’t pay his 
bills,” whereupon the minister rejoined, “That so? Well, give me that 
card back. We don’t want that sort of man in our church.” Another of the 


one to be ejected. A few churches, notably the Catholic and 
Episcopal, give some instruction regarding the duties of mem- 
bership to children about to join; such instruction to adults 
is far more rare. The nature of the instruction given to children 
is suggested by the statement of the pastor of a leading church: 
“Oh, I just instruct them in the meaning of the church, the 
sacraments, and about God and Jesus and the Bible.^^ 

Three things may bind a member to his church : money con- 
tribution, attendance at services, and church work. Of these the 
last is, according to the ministers, the least common. In five 
of the six leading Protestant churches the minister set the per- 
centage of active members, i.e., those who do something in 
connection with the church other than attend services, at 25 per 
cent; in the sixth church, with less than 200 members, the 
figure was placed at 50 per cent. “Lack of leadership and com- 
placency'^ were the answers given over and over again by min- 
isters to the question, “What do you consider your greatest 
problem here?" 

The meaning of church membership in terms of money con- 
tribution is indicated by the portion of the family income given 
to the church. Traditionally every Christian “returns a tenth of 
his substance to the Lord." A few families in Middletown con- 
tinue this practice of tithing, but, according to the statements 
of ministers and church treasurers, the great majority con- 
tribute far less than a tenth. Of the sample of 100 working 
class families for whom income distribution was secured eighty 
gave less than 2.5 per cent, of their year's earnings to the 
church, fifty-eight gave less than i per cent., thirty-nine less 

names suggested was that of a man who “is getting a divorce” and again 
the reply was, “Well, we don’t want him, then.” It is extremely unlikely, 
however, that either of these men would have been refused membership 
if he had applied. 

The ministers of the six leading Protestant churches were asked what 
percentage of the leading men in each religious group, “elders,” “deacons,” 
“vestrymen,” and so on, read their Bibles regularly. They replied ; 

^ I. “Possibly 25 per cent, of the twelve members of the Session and pos- 
sibly 20 per cent of the twenty-two trustees and deacons.” 

II. “Less than 50 per cent. All the eleven elders do but this isn’t true 
by any means of the twenty-eight others.” 

III. “I’m pretty sure that seven out of twelve of our deacons do, but 
only two out of eight trustees.” 

IV. “Two or three— certainly not over four at most — out of ten.” 

V. “Every one, I think.” 

VI. “I suspect four of the ten do.^' 


than 0.5 per cent., and nine gave nothing. Of the twenty giving 
2.5 per cent, or more of their earnings, only one gave as much 
as a tenth to the church.^® 

Income distribution, including church contributions, could 
not be secured for a sample of the business class. Some idea of 
the money nexus between the business class and the church can, 
however, be gained from the contributions of members in cer- 
tain churches. The members of the most fashionable church 
in Middletown, almost exclusively business class people, 
include roughly, according to the church secretary, one person 
who contributes more than $1,000 a year, ten persons who con- 
tribute between $500 and $999, fifteen between $250 and $499, 
seventy between $100 and $249, and 425 less than $100.^^ In 
another prominent church with a scattering of well-to-do busi- 
ness people and many working class members, only one person 
gives as much as $2^ a year, one $200, and the great mass of 
the members from $14 to $52 a year. 

That church membership does not necessarily mean even a 
minimum money contribution appears from a distribution of 
918 members, a random sample of approximately 50 per cent, 
of the total, of the largest Protestant church in the city on April 
I, 1924. Their financial nexus with their church was as follows : 

566 of the 918 (62 per cent.) had pledged themselves to con- 
tribute money to the church.^® 

177 of these 566 were in arrears at the close of the year for 
payments due in the first six months. 

273 of the 918 (30 per cent.) made no pledge to contribute, 
and only seventy-five of the 273 subsequently paid anything other 
than possible incidental contributions placed in the collection plate. 

Three of the 918 were listed in the published membership roll 
as ^'Exempt*' and information was not given as to the contribu- 
tions of seventy-six more members.^® 

No check was made of church membership. The significant point is 
that although ninety-one of these 100 families contribute to the church, 
only one continues the traditional tithing. See Table VI. 

Cf. Ch- VIII for estimate of the incomes of Middletown’s business 

i®Four hundred and sixty-seven of the 566 also pledged something to 
‘‘benevolences/’ i.e., denominational Christian activities other than the sup- 
port of current expenses of the local church. 

Forty-four of the seventy-six names left blank were adults, fourteen 
more were wives who were not listed as contributing though their husbands 
were, and eighteen were children, presumably children of the forty-four 


Financial support of the church appears in Middletown at all 
levels, from the spontaneous giving of the traditional tithe on 
the part of a few ardent church members, through the stage 
of giving ^'because I wouldn’t like to live in a land without 
churches” or because it is ‘‘expected,” to not giving at all. In 
the face of increasing financial demands of the individual 
churches and their denominational boards, “giving of one’s sub- 
stance to the Lord” is meeting with greater competition as 
community-wide charity is becoming secularized and the out- 
ward dominance of the church in the community declining. 
Meanwhile, according to statements by the ministers and by the 
treasurers of two business class churches, the increasing money 
needs of the churches and their denominations and the declining 
dominance of the “message” of the church with many Middle- 
town people are increasing the relative prominence of the money 
tie between a church and its members as compared with a 
generation ago. 

No check of church attendance in terms of membership 
was made. Although the tradition is that “every one goes to 
church,” a check of attendance at the services of the forty-two 
religious bodies during the four-week period from October 26 
to November 22, 1924, shows that an average of only eleven 
males in each 100 of the white male population and eighteen 
females in each 100 of the white female population attended 
Sunday morning church services on each of the four Sundays.^® 
Ten males and fourteen females in each 100 attended the Sun- 
day evening service, and, according to the estimates of the 
ministers, about half of these were people who had not at- 
tended in the morning. About eighteen people of both sexes in 
each 100 went to Sunday SchooP^ and five to the mid-week 
religious service. The equivalent of eight in each 100 of the 
male population aged five to twenty-one and eleven in each 100 
of the females of that age attended the Sunday evening “young 
people’s” services, though actually few under ten years and, in 

See for these and the following figures Table XX. Population was here 
taken as 38,000 minus the same percentage of Negroes as in 1920. The 
percentage of males and females was also assumed to be the same as that 
shown by the 1920 Census. In 1920 there were 103 males for each 100 
females in the white population of Middletown. 

21 Athearn found that 49 per cent, of a sample of the urban population 
of this state under twenty-one years of age was enrolled in Sunday Schools- 
{Op. cit, p. 62.) 


the working class churches, a number of persons over twenty- 
one were present at these meetings and are included in the 
totals. Over the four-week period an average of 20,632 persons 
per week was counted at all five types of religious services, 
though this would mean far less than that number of different 

Careful estimates by the research staff of the ratio of the 
sexes showed 68 per cent, to be females in a total of 2,030 per- 
sons attending sixteen Sunday morning services in churches of 
all types. This follows closely the ratio of female to male mem- 
bership in the largest Protestant church. 

" The habit of attending religious services appears to be de- 
clining as compared with 1890, according to the almost uni- 
versal testimony of ministers and church, members and accord- 
ing to the study of the church-going habits of the forty busi- 
ness class and 123 working class families interviewed. In fif- 
teen of the former the entire family goes to morning church 
either three or four Sundays a month, as compared with twenty- 
four of the families of the parents of the present housewives in 
the early nineties. In seventeen (a seventh) of the 123 workers^ 
families the entire family goes to Sunday morning church three 
or four times a month as compared with fifty-three (nearly 
half) of the wives^ parents’ families. Attendance by the entire 
family at the Sunday evening service has disappeared among 
this group of business class families, though it is still continued 
by eighteen of the working class families three or four times a 
month.^® Sunday School attendance, while remaining roughly 

22 It is perhaps worth noting in this connection that some 31,000 admis- 
sions are paid to Middletown theaters each week, although this total includes 
people from the surrounding county. 

2® The Sunday evening service is a "problem*' for ministers only sur- 
passed by that of the prayer meeting in Middletown's business class churches. 
Of the half-dozen large churches in the center of the city it was commonly 
said in 1924 that only one man could get a crowd Sunday evening. The 
largest Protestant church in the city, with nearly 2,000 members, was 
experimenting with moving picture services, devoting, e.g., four Sunday 
evenings to pictures of the life of Lincoln, in an effort to find and hold a 
crowd. The one uptown church that consistently gets a crowd is that coij,- 
ducted by a brigadier-general who led an infantry brigade overseas during 
the war. The congregation is made up of working class^ people and less 
prosperous members of the business class. The minister is a Rooseveltian 
person who asserts, "Any man who dares stand up as the spokesman of 
Christianity and say it stands for pacifism is a liar. ... If you find any 
one whom you can't talk religion into, by the good Lord you can knock 
the devil out of him I” Confident of his message, unperturbed by modem- 

36 o engaging in RELIGIOUS PRACTICES 

constant with the children of both classes as compared with a 
generation ago, exhibits some decline in both cases among 
adults. The increase in non-attendance at any religious services 
is marked among the workers.^^ 

Reasons given by the women interviewed for going or not 
going to church, while they cannot be taken at their face value, 
throw some light on the changing status of this long-established 


To thirteen of the thirty-three working class women who 
usually attend, church-going would appear to be an unques- 
tioned custom which needs no explanation : 

^ We’re Catholics and go regularly.” 

*^We believe in holiness and sanctification.” 

and the children are Catholics and go regularly. He’s a 
Baptist, but he works seven days a week and don’t feel like 

ism, preaching on “Shall We Monkey with Evolution or Accept the Chal- 
lenge of Evangelism?” — telling his crowded audience wdth a boyish grin 
that he wants to hurry the service along “because I've got a whale of a 
sermon for you !” — using the catchy old Sunday School hymns that every- 
body knows, always introducing innovations tiiat bring the congregation 
into the service, it is not surprising that his church begins to fill up at 
seven and that frequently every seat is taken when the service starts at 

24 See Table XXI, These data should be used cautiously; samples are 
small, and the factor of memory is involved, though in an activity such as 
church-going, performed over and over^ for years, relative accuracy of 
recollection is probably more nearly attainable than in less often repeated 
and less ceremonial activities. Every effort was made to check estimates, 
and the interviewers felt that answers approximated closely actual condi- 
tions in both periods. In cases where there was difference in attendance 
habits between winter and summer months, attendance was based upon the 
winter months of more regular church-going. 

25 Thirty-three of the 107 working class wives answering this question 
and twen^-five of the thirty-six business class wives go to church fre- 
quptly enough to give reasons for going to church rather than for not 
going, although a larger number, particularly of the working class, go 
occasionally. Where the church-going habits of the wife differ from those 
of other members of the family, the reasons given represent the wife's 
view. The reasons quoted here are selected as most characteristic. The 
classification of answers is necessarily loose, and some comments could be 
classified in more than one group. 


Thirteen answer in terms of definitely prizing the service: 

‘'We like it. It does us good for the whole week, especially Mr. 
— 's sermons.’^ 

'T feel better all week for going and looking forward to it.” 

‘T get a lot of good out of it. Real Christians want to hear 
others’ opinions in regard to the future.” 

‘‘Folks can be better when they go to church. It keeps you in 
touch with the Bible teachings. People are influenced by things 
around them like church.” 

Three stress their children in this connection : 

“After I was married, we didn’t bother to go to church or Sun- 
day School but when the boys started in he and I began going 
again too.” 

“I like missions better than regular churches because they do 
more for the children. My father used to be a mission preacher. 
We usually attend mission churches when we go.” 

“We were all raised to go to church. It helps you in bringing up 
a family to do right — and that’s hard enough anyway in these 
days !” 

Two emphasize a poverty of other alternatives : 

“It’s the only place I go, and I get just everything out of it.” 

“I like to go to church. It’s the only place, about, I ever do 


Two more go under the influence of special revivalist teach- 

“In April my man got converted and he’s since been ordained 
a preacher in the Christian New Light Church. I used to go to 
church some but he never went. Now we both go all the time — 
wouldn’t miss it! We read the Bible every day. We used to go to 
the movies once or twice a week, but since February we ain’t 
gone at all, ’cause our church says it’s wrong — and it saves 
money, too.” 

“Sin is the chief cause of unhappiness and evil in the world, and 
salvation is the one cure. The Scripture is being fulfilled in the 


evils that are abroad in the world now and I look for the second 
coming soon. Only a few will be saved. My man and I try not to 
let the physical interfere with our faith, but, as he says, it has 
to be provided for. I don’t approve of no socials and doings like 
that — ^they’re all of the world.” 

Reasons among the non-church-goers are more varied. 
Twenty of the seventy-four who do not attend regularly either 
have to work on Sunday or, after their week’s work, prefer a 
day of rest and freedom to the bother of church-going : 

“I could pick up and go to church but I just don’t — I’m too 
tired mostly. My husband’s a member of the Methodist church 
and he don’t like to work Sundays but he just has to to keep his 

^'By the time I get the children ready it’s too late to start and 
I’m too tired. He works hard all week and rests Sunday. I approve 
of church all right but just can’t scrape up time and energy to go.” 

'‘Too many kids. The mister never went to church. I like to go 
but it’s too much work to get the kids olf. The boys used to go 
to Sunday School but they acted up so bad that I just took ’em 

"Even when the DeKoven Chorus sang at the church my hus- 
band wouldn’t go. He says he’s at the factory so much he wants to 
stay home when he can.” 

"He don’t like to go to church Sunday night. We’ve been away 
from church this summer more’n ever since we got our car.” 

"In the summer we’d rather get out in the car, because we’ve 
only the one free day during the week. In the winter I don’t like 
to have dinner so late, so I don’t stay for church. It’s like my 
husband says: sermons are too long anyhow.” 

Twenty others say that they simply have not the habit of 
going : 

"I just never got in the way of going. My oldest boy, he goes 
to the Epworth League. I ain’t got nothing against church but I 
just don’t bother to go.” 

"I used to go to church some in the country and used to miss 
not going when I first came here to town, but I don’t even think 
of it now any more.” 


“We haven’t got started in Middletown, though we used to go 

some in . Guess none of us are really interested. Some of our 

friends here criticize us pretty much for not going to church. I 
always try to act right, though. I feel awfully bad if I hurt any- 
body, and I try not to, but I don’t find church helps me any in 

'‘We used to go to the church, but it’s too far away to go 

since we moved. The children go to the Brethren Sunday School. 
When I was working I didn’t have no time for church anyway.” 

One of these gives a variety of reasons for having lost the 
habit : 

‘Tt’s just awful and I’m ashamed, but we never go. The reason 
people don’t go to church as much as they used to is lack of dis- 
cipline in the home and lack of interest. Then there’s other things : 
unless a person is prominent in the church or socially, people in 
the church have no interest in her. My mother used to be a Bap- 
tist, but she got broader in her views as she grew older — really a 
Universalist. Then she was in the amusement business, and the 
church condemned amusements — ’specially Sunday amusements — 
so that shut her out of the church. I’m not the praying kind. 
Churches used to teach that God would do everything, but science 
is teaching that the early Bible legends are just like fairy tales.., 
the Bible written by a man, and that we must rely more on our 
own five senses.” 

Thirteen speak of not finding enough of interest in the serv^ 
ice to draw them : 

“I don’t find it worth while enough to make up for the sac- 
rifice it means for me to go.” 

'T don’t see anything to it. Just like going to a funeral.” 

"^Just never got interested in going to church, though I go to 
revivals and things like that. My mother always takes the children 
to Sunday School.” 

"We don’t like the minister at our church. He’s a good man, 
but he can’t seem to preach good sermons. My husband says he 
can get more from reading at home than he can from hearing 
him and I don’t like to go to Sunday School and then not stay 
for church, so I just don’t go at all.’* 

^'Church somehow isn’t interesting, though I like the preacher 
at the Holy Roller church. I used to be Catholic and wish I’d 


brought my children up Catholics since all this Klan disturbance. 
The Catholics are better Christians than most Protestants and 
they certainly are better church-goers.” 

‘T like to go to church when I can understand the sermon, but 
you know how it is, sometimes they are just too deep for you — 
you can't understand them.” 

‘T used to go but sorta got out of the habit because I didn’t 
know nobody and it’s too hard to keep the family dressed. When 
one’s shoed, the others are out. I don’t miss going anyway. The 
church is just a mess of people that’s went for years and years. 
There ain’t never nothing new, and you get tired of the same old 

Eight appear to regard keeping the family together on Sun- 
day as more important than church attendance : 

‘T used to go to evening service pretty regular, but the rest of 
the family don’t want to go, so now I stay home. I like the 
family to be together. Just as good people stay outside the church 
as in it anyway. My children don’t get anything out of Sunday 

^^Both he and I are tied down all week and need to get out 
Sundays. I feel it’s better to keep the family all together than 
for me to go to church Sunday morning and my husband to be at 
home alone.” 

^‘My man has gone to ^’s church with me sometimes, but he 

says he just feels out of place there and I think it’s better for the 
whole family to be together at the movies than separated and 
part of them at church. My two youngest go to Sunday School 
and never miss. Funny, isn’t it, when we are children we love to 
go to Sunday School and when we grow up we can’t bear to go 
to church!” 

For six, financial and allied social considerations predom- 
inate : 

'Tt cost too much and we just didn’t get much out of it. People 
talk about tithing, but what’s a tithe to some ain’t a tithe to others. 
It’s all right always to give to others, but when you see other 
people shiftless and you’re saving and scrimping why ought you 
to give to them when they get in trouble through not having 


'T believe in bringing up a child in going to church ; it gets him 
in with a good class of people. We don’t have a close church con- 
nection any longer, though, because once when we couldn’t pay 
our regular contribution they dropped us from the roll.” 

‘Tt takes too much money to buy nice clothes for church, and if 
you aren’t dressed up nice it’s no place for you. Then, too, after 
the children get off to Sunday School I’m too tired to go. I won’t 
go off and leave my house in a mess.” 

‘‘We’ve scarcely gone to church at all since we came to live here 
eighteen years ago. There’s too much dressing up for church these 
days ; he used to go to church in his overalls just as good as any- 
body. But now it won’t do for people to go without being all 
dressed up and we just haven’t got the clothes for that.” 

“I like Sunday School more’n church. They talk more direct to 
you than in church. My man he don’t like to go to church — says 
he doesn’t know many people and feels queer.” 

“I don’t care much about going. If you aren’t dressed as well 
as other people they don’t pay any attention to you. Oh, I get 
something when I go, but I don’t go much. I like the Ladies’ Aid 
pretty well.” 

Five say that they are kept away by the character of the 
people who attend : 

“There’s too many hypocrites in the churches. They’re just all 
the time asking for money, trying to squeeze it out of you. This 
church over here is just full of Klan members, and I just ain’t 
got any use of the Elian.” 

“After I married I drifted away from church. Then I began 
to decide I didn’t want to attend anyway. There are too many 
people in the church that worship the almighty dollar — ^too many 
mean people that oughtn’t to be there. People oughta live right, 
and then it won’t matter about church. My girl sometimes wants 
to go to Sunday School and I won’t keep her away — ^because she 
might learn some good. But I won’t force any child of mine to 
go to Sunday School or church, either.” 

“I got tired of hearing hypocrites get up and testify so I just 
stopped going to church, but he goes to the other U.B. churches 
about town when there ain’t a service at his own church.” 

“Sunday’s the only morning we have to sleep. He says church is 
only a money-getting scheme anyway, and people are mostly 


hypocrites. If they really believed the things they say in church 
they would do something about all the things that are wrong. 
If all the people who have called themselves Christians for 2,000 
years had really believed in Jesus and his way of living, they'd 
Ve made the world a mighty different place from what it is now."" 

For one, “sin’’ is the obstacle : 

‘^My husband hasn't salvation. There’s no real reason for peo- 
ple’s lack of interest in church. They just don’t want it, because 
if they did, they’d have it. It’s free for all.” 

And one is kept from the Catholic Church by fear of the 


Nine of the twenty-five business class women who make a 
practice of going to church say that they go because they find 
distinct value in the service: 

‘T think the church is the finest thing in the world. It means 
everything to me.” 

*T love the Episcopal service and always get something from 
^’s sermons.” 

'"My ideal is to be at church every Sunday. I always get some- 
thing from church which helps me all through the week just as I 
do from reading Daily Strength for Daily Needs 

‘T don’t go for the sake of seeing people as they are usually 
cold and formal. But I get something from the service and the 

‘‘You can usually hear a good sermon when you go to church, 
and I really have more respect for myself when I do attend 

To seven, church attendance has never presented itself as 
a problem or they go as a matter of principle : 

“Why, it just never occurred to me to question church-going !” 

“I was brought up to go to church and I just feel uneasy as if 
something is wrong with the day if I don’t go. I often get some- 
thing from church that helps me through the week.” 

Seven others, if they have raised the question, regard regular 
church attendance as something to be done without debate, 
whether they enjoy it or notj 


‘T would hate to live in a community where there was no 
church. I must confess I am not as interested in church or in 
church work as a good many. Lots o£ the time I am just plain 
bored by church, but I feel I ought to go/' 

“Church going is one thing I insist on with my family. Loyalty 
to religion is the foundation of all the rest of life and the church 
is the one institution that represents it.” 

“Church doesn’t fill the need with a great many people. I get 
something from it but lots of times I wish I didn’t feel I ought 
to go.” 

“Mr. and I go as a matter of principle. People ought to 

support churches. The children go to Sunday School because they 
enjoy it. The church used to be the social center in the community 
but it isn’t now.” 

Two attend church primarily for the sake of their children: 

“I haven’t any very definite beliefs, but feel about going to 
church pretty much the way I do about bringing up children ; I’m 
afraid not to go for fear it will be unwise and particularly for 
fear my child will be missing something valuable if she is not 
established in habits of going to church and Sunday School.” 

“I go chiefly because I think it sets a good example for the 
boys — though I really do get something out of it. When my 
older boy went to college I told him that of course I did not ex- 
nect him to go to church and Sunday School every Sunday like 
he always did at home, but I wanted him to go occasionally and 
to have faith in something. If a boy has faith in his Creator, I 
think he will be all right whether he goes to church and Sunday 
School or not.” 

Six of the eleven who do not attend say that they are not 
interested : 

“I just can’t get to church. I have to spend so much time on 
the children that there’s no time or energy left for me to go to 
church. Really, though, I don’t miss going to church because I 
get so awfully little out of it when I do go. It’s not that I think 
[my minister] insincere, but the service is so formal and just 
doesn’t get at real problems. Then, too, our minister doesn’t look 
at things theologically the way I do. I’m an admirer of Dr. 
Fosdick and he isn’t.” 



‘‘We don't go. I believe the church is a good thing for the com- 
munity, and the beliefs it stands for are probably a good thing, 
but IVe just pretty well lost any belief in church and God and 
immortality I ever had. If you do the very best you can, that's 
all any one can do anyway. Now our children go to Sunday School, 
but, when I come to thiidc of it, I don't know why we send them. 
I never gave it much thought — guess we just do it like many 
people go to church, from habit. It's all pretty much a matter 
of habit — and, too, being afraid of what the neighbors will say 
if you don't/' 

‘T went to church all the time as a girl and just got utterly 
sick of it. The first Sunday after I was married I said, T'm not 
going to church!' and IVe never been much since. My husband 
just can’t listen to sermons ; he has tried over and over to go, but 
just can't swallow them. He often says if he expressed any of 
his real views people would call him an atheist. I don't miss going 
to church in the least and think Sunday a much finer day now 
than it was when I was a girl. When the children were little 
they wanted to go to Sunday School as the other children did, and 
I let them go. They went for a while but did not get much out of 
it and soon gave it up. My boy still says his prayers every night 
and he says I taught him to, but I can't ever remember doing it." 

“I just don't see any particular reason for going to church, 
though I believe in a general sort of way the church is a good 
thing for the community." 

Two say that they need to rest on Sunday or that too many 
other things fill the dayj 

“Of course I think going to church is the right thing to do, and 
I guess I usually get something from church when I go, but in 
summer we mostly go out in the car Sundays." 

“I like to go, but it is just too much of a rush to get off in 
the morning. I like to go to prayer meeting better than to church 
because it isn’t such a rush to get there." 

Three have lost the habit of going : 

“We don't ever go to Sunday night service now. It used to be 
that people didn’t have anything else to do and went as a mat- 
ter of course. People are just as religious as they used to be, but 
they don't always go to church to express it." 

“I always went to all church services from the time I was a 
little girl. After my first baby came I decided to give up regular 


church-going and I never miss it now. I guess i£ that’s wicked- 
ness, I am wicked [laughing]. Lots of people just go to church 
from habit and as a matter of course.” 

‘We outgrew the Lutheran church we were brought up in and 
then went to the Methodist Sunday School for a while to hear 
and then just drifted away and now don’t go.” 

Over against these statements as to why people do or do not 
go to church in Middletown may be set the reasons for going 
set forth by the churches in their advertisements and public 
statements by their ministers prior to Go-to-Church Week: 

‘Tt will make you feel better.’^ 

“Very helpful to every member of the family, from gray- 
haired Grandpa down to Wee Baby Bessie.” 

“The purpose of this church is to help humanity. We want 
your help in our effort to help others.” 

“The church is one of the fundamental institutions and should 
be supported.” 

“If tomorrow every church of every denomination in Middle- 
town should be filled to its capacity, that fact alone would give 
impetus to all good works indefinitely in this community. . . , 
Our physical presence in a church is a helpful thing spiritually 
and practically.” 

“Come and join us in our morning services next Sunday. . . . 
Note how much better you will feel the whole day long.” 

“No city has a more wonderful bunch of churches than has 
Middletown. Select one and make it your Church — the place 
where you can worship God, learn of His world program, be- 
come associated with the best people, and where you will find a 
glorious opportunity for service. ... No man can be happy as a 
Christian unless he is active in some Church — workings giving, 
praying. Our ambition is to serve the largest possible number of 
people. We can help you in sickness, in sorrow, in trouble. But 
our greatest blessing for you is simply an opportunity to make 
your life count big for the uplift of people right here in Middle- 
town and unto the uttermost parts of the world.” 

Yet another reason for church-going, one that probably cuts 
deep into the roots of the habit, is voiced by the local press in 
an editorial, ^'Why Attend the Church?” ^Tn the church of the 


right kind there is an atmosphere of soul peace and contentment 
that comes more nearly meeting human needs and longings for 
better things than anything the week days hold.” In other 
words, as in the case of civic loyalty and patriotism, in church 
question marks straighten out into exclamation points, the 
baffling day-by-day complexity of things becomes simple, the 
stubborn world falls into step with man and his aspirations, his 
individual efforts become significant as part of a larger plan. 

Chapter XXIII 


As giving money to the church and attending church meet- 
ings constitute the core of the formal religious activities of 
church members, so the Sunday morning church service is the 
core of these religious services. Around it the other activities 
of the church have been built up.^ In most Middletown churches 
its chief feature is a sermon by the minister ; accompanying the 
sermon are Bible reading, prayers, and the singing of religious 
songs. Fervor on the part of the congregation during the service 
appears chiefly in the small churches frequented by workers 
or in a few evening services during the singing of old, familiar 
hymns. The minister of a Protestant church of over 1,500 
members said of his congregation: *‘My people seem to sit 
through the sermon in a kind of dazed, comatose state. They 
don’t seem to be wrestling with my thought.’’ ^ And yet, 

^The discussion of religious observances in this chapter is based upon 
detailed reports by members of the staff of sixty-seven Sunday morning 
services, ninety-six Sunday evening services, thirty-one Sunday School 
services, eleven Young People’s meetings, twelve prayer meetings, a total 
of 217, plus numerous reports of Young Men’s and Young Women’s Chris- 
tian Association religious and social meetings and Bible classes, missionary 
societies, flower missions, men’s club dinners, church annual meetings, and 
so on. These detailed staff reports are supplemented by long abstracts of 
sermons sent in by the ministers and appearing each Monday morning in the 
press, from one to six appearing each week, and by interviews with min- 
isters, Y.M. and Y.W.C.A. secretaries, and other religious leaders. 

All available comparable material for 1890, such as sermon reports in 
papers and announcements and reports of church meetings in the press and 
in record books, was utilized as a basis of comparison, but such early ma- 
terial was disappointingly meager. 

2 Evidence of this inertia is possibly afforded by the answers of leading 
ministers to the four questions : 

(a) How many times during the past year has a boy between fourteen 
and twenty-one years come to you with an intelligent question growing out 
of one of your sermons ? 

(b) How many letters have you received during 1924 taking issue with 
what you said in the pulpit? 

(c) Do you have a question box? 



“People here are so soaked with the habit of listening to ser- 
mons/’ according to another leading minister, “that it’s hard to 
get them to take any other interest in the church/’ 

It is these sermons, forming the focus of the religious life 
of Protestant adults in Middletown, which are the chief means 
of diffusing habits of thought and action approved by the 
church to its members. A study of sermon titles shows them 
concerned with much the same themes today as a generation 
ago. All sermon subjects mentioned in the local press during 
1890, a total of eighty, and all announced in the press during 
the two sample months of April and October, 1924, a total of 
193, were classified by titles according to general emphasis — 
Biblical, theological, practical ethics, and so on — but the titles 
were, in most cases, so vague that the classification was felt to 
be of little value; no change since 1890 was apparent. 

The prevalence of sermon subjects too general to afford an 
adequate clew to their content, “Not a Taste,” “Three Men,” 
“Pinch Hitters,” “Law and Liberty,” and so on, in a period 
when the general discourse is tending to disappear elsewhere, 
may be in itself a significant indication of their character.® 
And even the more definite sermon subjects suggest a type of 

(d) How many questions has it averaged per month during 1924? 

Church Church Church Church Church Church 

12 3 4 5 6 

Number of members 922 1,600 1,250 184 804 247 

Question (a) Very o Not 0 3 or 4 0 

rarely answered 

Question (b) i o 0 0 2 6 

Question (c) No No No No Yes . No 

Question (d) % 

Answers to (c) and (d) were illuminating: 

Church I : “We had one once for three months and I took up the questions 
at the evening service, but I got only about one question a week, if that, 
and had to make up the others.” 

Church 2 : “I got two or three questions a week when I tried it out three 
years ago — but they were all fool questions, like, ‘Where did Cain get his 
wife?’ ” 

Church 3 : “We have no regular box, but I put one up from time to time 
when preaching a special series.” 

Church 4: “I didn’t get one question a week — the whole thing was ex- 
tremely negligible.” 

Church 5 : “I get only one or two a year.” 

Church 6: (No comment.) 

3 It may be a commentary upon this institution of the sermon on a general 
theme that, when two high school teachers who had been to a leading church 



diffuse treatment which, while still found in other public ad- 
dresses today, is less dominant than in the nineties. Today, as in 
1890, the subjects run week after week : ''The Journey to Can- 
aan,” "The Sorrow of Jesus,” "Sunday Observance,” "Why 
Jesus Went to Church,” "Play Square with God,” "Jesus as Son 
of God,” "Will Jesus Be at the Feast?” "The Importance of 
Faith,” "The Call of the Universe,” "The Seven Joys of a 
Christian,” and so on. Indicative of what Middletown is wont 
to expect from its sermons is the comment of a veteran church 
worker asked to open a Sunday evening experiment in the form 
of a church forum on "What Kind of a Mayor Does Middle- 
town Need?” He began, "There's something queer about this. 
This is a church all right, and it’s church time — ^but this sub- 
ject isn’t the kind we’re used to in church.” An effort to make 
sermons gear in with the dominant values of the city appears 
in such titles as "Christ : From Manger to Throne” and "Busi- 
ness Success and Religion Go Together.” 

The determination of sermon subjects is suggested by the 
procedure of the minister of one of the largest Protestant 
churches : "Each year I follow a kind of 'Christian year’ of 
ihy own — five sermons on the great doctrines of the church 
(the divinity of Christ, etc.) ; another series on heroes of the 
faith (Luther, etc.) ; a series on missionary heroes — ^these are 
pegs to hang our missionary appeals on; usually a group on 
the social implications of the gospel ; four or five on denomina- 
tional matters, and so on. My people eat alive the sort of ser- 
mons I deliver to children. My evening sermons are usually 
more popular — a series on the 'Music of Matrimony,’ the youth 
in his teens being the solo, and so on through the quartet, drew 
especially well.” Five of the six leading ministers interviewed 
said that they note no fluctuations in attendance due to an- 

the night before were asked on Monday how they had liked the sermon, the 
following conversation ensued: 

First T eacher. “Let's see ! I can’t remember what it was about/’ 

Second Teacher. “Neither can I. I don't remember a thing he said.” 

First Teacher. “It was awfully va^e — he talked all over the place, and 
you couldn’t put your finger on anything definite. Oh, I know ! It was called 
‘A Country Without a Church’ !” 

Second Teacher. “Oh, yes, he talked about a country without a child, a 
country without a Christ, and a country without a church. He said he 
couldn’t imagine anything worse than a country without a church. I'm sure 
I can!” 



nounced sermon subjects ; the sixth said, "'Moot doctrinal points* 
draw the largest crowds and sermons on social questions least/' 
The purpose of the sermon is suggested by the remark of a 
leading minister : ‘T put something at the close of each sermon 
that will exalt Jesus Christ.” Another always ends his sermans 
‘'with a push for something to be done — something practical.” 

Adequate classification or summary of the content of these 
sermons to which Middletown listens is impossible, but their 
general trend may be gathered from the following excerpts se- 
lected as most representative of the sermons heard by the 
staff or sent in to the press by the ministers during the period 
under study. One should visualize the audiences as made up 
of about three women to every two men, with few children in 
the business class churches and many in the working class 
churches. The former audience is well dressed, many of the 
women being members of the exclusive clubs; the men, mem- 
bers of civic clubs, will be singing Monday noon to the tune 
of "Over There” — 

'^Dy-na-mo, Dy-na-mo, 

We're the bunch, we’re the bunch, 

Dy-na-mo ! 

We're alive and coming, 

And we'll keep things humming; 

We're surely always on the go.” 

Tuesday noon they will be singing Rotary songs and perhaps 
being assured by their invited speaker of the general rightness 
of their world. The working class men and women come from 
cottages and bungalows ; their world frequently presents more 
obvious discrepancies from their heart's desires. Sitting there, 
row after row, they listen to "the Word” expounded as fol- 
lows : 

“Why is Jesus Remembered?” (Press report; prominent busi- 
ness class church.) 

Text: “The Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins/' 

“This is the reason why we remember Jesus. It is because 'the 
Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins.' The world's uni- 
versal necessity is a remedy for sin. Your deepest need and mine 
is a cure for our sin. It is what every member of the human race 
must have if he is not to go lame and despairing out into the 



great beyond, for ‘we have all sinned and come short of the glory 
of God/ . . . 

“Oh, why, yes, some make light of sin. Some give themselves 
a hypodermic psychic injection of the suggestion that they are all 
right. Those that dispense such opiates are far more dangerous 
than those who dispense opium, morphine, or other narcotics. One 
affects only the body, the other deadens the soul. There is a vast 
difference between cauterization of the mind and regeneration 
of the heart. The auto-suggestion hypo may quiet the mind, but 
it never touches the fundamental necessity of the cure of man’s 
sin and until man’s sin is cured, his heart can never be right. That 
cure was made possible by the sacrifice of the Son of man upon 
the cross of Calvary.” 

(Staff report; business class church.) 

“Soul winning is not a privilege of man but it is a prerogative 
of man ! And there is a big difference. Why did not the angel tell 
Cornelius the way of life? Because it would have been treason 
against the eternal God had the angel told Cornelius. That was 
not the angel’s business but Peter’s. So, I say, soul winning is 
not only man’s privilege but man’s prerogative.” 

(Press report; business class church.) 

“Oneness of purpose makes the cable that holds us true to the 
purpose whereunto we are called. . . . Oneness of spirit is the 
second strand of our cable. . . . Hope is the third strand of our 
cable of Christian unity. . . . One Lord and one faith are two 
more strands. . . . The sixth strand is one of baptism. . . . The 
seventh is one God and Father. ... I pray that every one of 
these seven twisted strands that make our cable of Christian unity 
will be accepted by you and me so that when the stress and strain 
of life comes, it will be able to hold us up.” 

(Press report; business and working class church.) 

“The Kingdom of God is the reign of truth, the assertion of 
righteousness, the acceptance of the divine mind by the human 
mind. It is divine thought, emotion, purpose saturating the human. 
It is love, sympathy, faith in every relationship. It is peace. It is 
power. It is victory. All nature waits the behest of the mind domi- 
nated by the divine. Seek the divine and the world, like a baying 
hound at the huntsman’s call, will lie down at your feet. The 
Spirit’s power is like the air, waiting for you to breathe it, but 
not forcing an entrance to your life.” 

(Press report; business class church.) 

“There are certain great lines that can not be ignored if the 
republic is to endure. The first of these is a just respect for law. 


. • . The second great essential is virtue upon the part of the 
in^vidual and social purity upon the part of society. . . . The 
third essential is the acknowledgment of the absolute right of the 
law of God in human affairs. ... If Christianity should fail, the 
republic would fail. And if America should fail, where is the hope 
of the world 

^‘The Mighty Magnet.” (Press report; working class church.) 

Text: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all 
men unto me.” 

“We are greatly indebted to men of science all down the ages 
for their discoveries. ... In the making of the earth, the All 
Wise Creator, placed within, and around, all the needed influ- 
ences for the various working forces, whether seen or unseen by 
mortal vision. . . . Magnetism is an unseen force in the realm of 
nature, but a useful force. 

“The All-Wise Heavenly Father planned for the uplift of hu- 
manity, and the attractive influence was His Only Begotten Son. 
Science tells us about magnetic ore, loadstone, magnetic oxide of 
iron. These forces have been wisely distributed, at no point over- 
done. . . . The greatest magnet known in heaven, or earth, is 
Jesus. At a point between the beginning and ending of time, when 
the human race needed an uplifting and saving power for man, 
the Heavenly Father gave His Son. 

“We believe that Jesus is coming again; but the day or hour 
of His coming is not for us to know. The work of salvation and 
the kingdom forces will keep us so everlastingly busy we will not 
have time for speculative subjects. Evil influences are keen, and 
if it were possible the very elect would be deceived. The spiritual 
man must examine his chart frequently. The cross attracts. . . . 

“The power of the cross has stirred the world more than any 
other influence.^^ 

(Press report; working class church.) 

“The Treaty of Versailles is a joke and worse than a failure 
because it was framed and manipulated by greedy political trick- 
sters rather than by Christian statesmen and unselfish patriots. 
It was a farce from beginning to end because the God at the 
center of the universe, whose throne is immovable, was absolutely 
ignored. His name was not mentioned. His blessing not asked. 
Infidelity wrote that document, and then we expect the good God 
to see it through. You will have to change every page of human 
history if you do not expect God to pass judgment on such 
infamy as that. . , , 

“We are in the midst of a period of criticism in which certain 
so-called ^intellectuals" are trying to destroy the Bible and men’s 


faith in the fundamentals of Christianily, but the Bible still stands. 
. . . The Bible comes from God and is the divine authority and 
His revelation to men. No great piece of oratory or literature can 
come from any other fountainhead. There could have been no 
Patrick Henry, Abraham Lincoln, Wendell Phillips, or Daniel 
Webster without it. . . . 

^"These may be dark days but there have been others in history. 
... In the darkest hour of human history [Jesus Christ] is 
coming back again. When He comes the world will have a King 
that is above every other king and who swings the scepter of 
peace and rules the nations of the earth.” 

(Staff report; working class church.) 

^T have been asked, Ts it right to pray for the Bearcats to win?’ 
by one of you who tells me he no longer believes in prayer be- 
cause he prayed as hard as he could for the Bearcats and they 
lost. I believe that prayer should be used only in cases where a 
moral or spiritual issue is at stake. God could favor the weaker 
team, but that would be unsportsmanlike of God.” 

Staff report; Catholic church.) 

t ^'He who does not partake regularly of the Mass is saying to 
Jesus that he will have nothing to do with him, and therefore 
without the Mass no one can be saved, ^t is only through the 
Mass that any qne_pf us can escape etern^Tdaganafloi^ But I do 
fo^ threaten ybuTTwant rather to make you feel the joy 
of Holy Mass. Holy Mass is identical with Jesus’ death on 
Calvary. In it Jesus is praying for you.” 

(Staff report; working class church.) 

^"When a person gets religion he has (i) a new head to know 
Christ and therefore a greater knowledge of Christ, (2) a new 
tongue to tell of Christ, (3) a new heart to compass Christ. 
Mohammedanism and the pagan religions are all hollow — there’s 
nothing in any of them. The only reason so many follow them 
is because they are kept in ignorance — ^the same as the Catholics.” 

Sunday evening services are traditionally a somewhat more 
informal and abbreviated edition of the morning services but 
with the sermon still the central feature, and this type of eve- 
ning service still predominates in Middletown, although it is 
here rather than in the morning services that innovations are 
beginning to be introduced.** 

^ For modifications of the Sunday evening service see below in this chapter. 

It is characteristic of social change that it should come more slowly in 
the morning service which is more heavily weighted with values as the 
most solemn focus of the religious traditions of Middletown. 


A special adaptation of the preaching service, a revival, 
occurs about once a year in many Middletown churches. 
Twenty-one of these revivals were reported in the press dur- 
ing 1924, six of them conducted by local ministers in their own 
churches and fifteen by imported evangelists. Revivals were 
frequent in 1890 — one gathers, even more frequent than today 
— ^and in January, 1891, the press reported: '^Revivals flourish- 
ing in all churches. The watchword is ^Middletown for Christ 
in January." A less constant feature of Middletown’s religious 
observances than the Sunday morning and evening services, 
they are almost equally representative. Observation of one such 
revival conducted by the largest Protestant church in Middle- 
town in 1924 exhibits many of the traditional characteristics of 
Middletown’s religious customs as well as their modification 
imder the influence of other changes in the local life. 

‘Why are you people having a revival?” a Rotarian and 
prominent member of this church was asked. 

"To limber up the church. The church never has done any- 
thing without stirring up its emotions — same as the war spirit 
with its ‘pep’ meetings and community singing, or this ‘Bearcat 
spirit’ over here in the high school, or the Ad. Club’s two com- 
peting teams, or the Rian, or a political convention— they’re all 
due to emotions You come around to our meetings and see for 

It was a revival conducted by the minister in person. A pub- 
licity man was engaged to keep the campaign in the press, a 
professional song leader was brought from the East, and the 
members were organized into a body of shock troops ; weekly 
noon luncheons of the men of the church wer^^inaugurated. The 
Friday before the revival started there was a “ ’thuse session” 
for men at a church supper. After the professional song leader 
had taught a French song sung by the troops overseas, the 
major domo called on a man present to speak on “Organiza- 

This man, a jeweler, held up the framed parts of a watch 
and explained that, so disconnected, it could not run. Then he 
held up a map of one-quarter of the city with red dots, and blue 
dots marking off “fifteen groups of five to seven men each. By 

this organization Brother can in an hour’s time transmit to 

the farthest corner of the parish any work he needs done. And 
not a man is refusing any task, however strenuous. But before 



I close, men, there’s just one thing: we’ve got to *get right/ 
I was touched the other night to hear a man I’ve always regarded 
as a Christian say at Prayer Meeting that he was not 'right’ and 
was going to 'get right’ before the meetings start — and, men, we 
all ought to do it/’ 

The chairman now called on an automobile salesman, who 

"Men, I said to a fellow in my shop, a good fellow, the other 
day, 'Jim, are you a Christian?’ 'No/ he said, 'but I am just as 
good as Christians/ 'No,’ I said, 'Jim, you’re not. You may act 
as well as I do, but if you have not accepted Jesus Christ as your 
personal Savior you’ll not be saved/ He went away and in two 
days came back and said, 'Ben, you may be right. I want you to 
show me how I can find out whether you are. And if you’re right 
you know I’ll say so, and if I find you wrong I know you’ll say 
so!’ ... I got on my knees and asked God Almighty to show 
him how to accept Jesus as his Savior. . . . Well, men, Jim came 
back to me in a couple more days and said, 'I want to talk to 
you/ And a tear ran down his cheek and he said, 'Ben, you’re 
right and I am accepting from now on Jesus Christ as my per- 
sonal Savior.’ Men, it is a wonderful feeling to lead a life down 
the aisle to the altar and to Jesus Christ and to salvation. Men, 
if you take the Bible and go out to try to show Jesus Christ to 
other men you may not get very far, for there’s lots of men 
smarter than you. But, men, if you go out with Jesus Christ in 
your heart through Him you can conquer all things. . . . Men, 
we’re set for a great meeting. I know we can have a rousing re- 
vival if we will!” 

The minister was then called upon, the whole assemblage, 
by now bubblingover with enthusiasm, rising and clapping : 

"Men, I had another address prepared but a young man 
came to me this afternoon and after we had talked he asked: 
'Why is it that the church is so far behind other departments of 
our life? Industry, science, invention are making strides rapidly, 
but religion — 1’ I tell you, men, religion, the religion of Jesus 
Christ, is the most up-to-date thing in the world. Philosophies, 
sciences have all had flaws and have had to submit to change 
but the gospel of Jesus Christ has never had to be changed in 
the slightest detail. Behind the times? It is 2,000 years ahead 
of the knowledge of the best men, and when we get up to it we’ll 
find it still unchanged, perfect. The reason why the church is 
dead ... is because the people outside so often can’t tell the 

38o engaging in RELIGIOUS PRACTICES 

difference between church members and others who are not 

“I want to talk to you on ‘Who is your boss?’ Jesus Christ is 
the only one that has ever been able to bend men by his leader- 
ship and shoot them on and on to his great end. It is not we 
with our puny strength, our science and our philosophy, that will 
ever reach this goal. We are helpless without God Almighty. We 
are forever saying, ‘I haven’t time to do so and so for the church.’ 
But I tell you, men, the only thing worth while is living the Life 
that God Almighty calls you to. Business is not the end of living — 
and I tell you the Christian business man gets more for himself 
and for his family than the other man. . . 

What a revival in full swing looks like may be seen from the 
great meeting “For Men Only” on “The Follies of 1924” — 
promised as “A red-hot arraignment of present-day vices,” 
and according to the advance newspaper notices of the cam- 
paign publicity manager, “the hottest meeting of the cam- 
paign.” Tickets resembling theater tickets were distributed 
through all the downtown offices in advance of the meeting. 
On the appointed Sunday afternoon men packed the church 
auditorium, while 3-400 women crowded every inch of the 
basement to hear the minister’s wife speak on “The Marys of 
Yesterday and Today,” Upstairs the singing worked up in a 
crescendo to “The Old Rugged Cross,” the Eastern song leader 
singing the verses and the full chorus choir of men the choruses. 
Meanwhile long wires were passed around on which those pres- 
ent impaled their greenback offerings. Then came the sermon : 

“The follies of education and science have jazzed up the whole 
works, until it takes a man considerable time to find out what is 
true and what is false, but these are not the real follies of which 
I am to speak. ... I want to introduce to you a fine crop of 
chorus girls who are positively indecent in their over-exposure. 
They are plump and well kept by the wealth of the modern so- 
ciety. I will now lead on the first group of three: Godlessness, 
Hypocrisy, Flippancy. Godlessness stands before us: tall, full- 
bosomed, long of limb, with all the make-up that allures a man. 
She is the mother of all the follies. Godlessness is at the root of 
the whole trouble with America today and with the whole world 
today. She is born of the devil and the whore of hell. . . ® 

® It is noteworthy that the appeal used both here and in the women’s meet- 
ing to get out the crowd, by this church which condemns dancing, card- 
playing, and the theater, was identical with that used by the more sensa- 
tional local movies. That the use of this appeal was not fortuitous is indi- 


The sermon was followed by an appeal to come down to the 
altar to take “a forward step/’ and slips of paper bearing Bible 
texts and a friendly word from the pastor were distributed 
to the score of men who responded. 

At other meetings enthusiasm ran equally high. At one a 
brass band was present, the church packed, and after closing 
a sermon on Daniel in the Lions’ Den with “I tell you God will 
protect a man from anything, anything, if he will only pray 
to Him,” the minister added, have promised a gift for 

every child here tonight and we’ve kept our word.” Down the 
aisle streamed a score of men, each holding great bundles of 
toy balloons — red, green, yellow, purple — each inscribed with 
the name of the church and of the pastor. A gasp arose from 
the crowd. The minister climbed on a chair, put one foot up on 
the pulpit and smiled down on the excited business of dis- 
tributing the balloons. Silence was restored long enough for a 
prayer, and audience and balloons surged out on to the streets. 

After these revivals there frequently comes a let-down. The 
pastor of a large church exclaimed after a long campaign, 
“After years of importuning by my strongest men I yielded. 
But never again. My church reacted splendidly under the re- 
vival. It gave us a distinct quickening, but the curse of this 
church is the revival attitude toward religion that palsies a 
seven-day-week energy.” Ministers of several leading churches 
oppose the revival type of service on similar grounds. But 
revivals continue to be held, and the tradition persists strongly ; 
one leading business class church in 1924 made its revival 
preliminary to launching a heavy building campaign. 

Although the sermon is traditionally the characteristic fea- 
ture of most Middletown church services,® a few people com- 
plain, “The minister seems to think the sermon is the whole 
thing” and “The congregation ought to have more part in the 
service.” Such comments usually come from the business 
group, but when one goes to the services in business class 

cated by the press announcement of another great revival a year before that, 
‘‘One of the greatest meetings of the campaign will undoubtedly be that for 

women and girls only at the tabernacle tomorrow afternoon, when Dr. 

speaks on ‘Tricks of the White Slavers and God’s Woman.’” 

® The question may properly be raised whether verbal conditioning through 
the accustomed religious symbols utilized in preaching can expect to hold 
its own in the face of the massed conditioning of commercial advertising, the 
movies, and other agencies preaching to Middletown day in and day out 
through the eye. 


churches particularly designed for participation by the people, 
the mid-week prayer meetings, one usually finds but a handful 
of the faithful present and their activity in prayer, discussion, 
or singing only forthcoming after considerable urging from 
the minister, who here, too, acts as leader. “Prayer meeting is 
the modern minister’s nightmare,” exclaimed one pastor. “He 
realizes its value, potentially, and the desirability of its quick- 
ening influence throughout the church, but it is desperately hard 
to make it go.” “The preachers have talked prayer meeting to 
death,” was the summary of a Rotarian, an active church 
worker, while the ministers insist that they talk only because 
nobody else will. 

The usual prayer meeting in the largest Middletown churches 
consists of twenty-five to fifty persons, the large majority of 
them adults over forty, with women predominating as in the 
Sunday services. A new minister in the largest church in Mid- 
dletown succeeded in raising the attendance temporarily to 1 50 
by reducing the usual prayer meeting to half an hour and fol- 
lowing it with a more informal discussion meeting. In another 
church, with the vigorous ex-brigadier general as pastor, over 
a hundred people are commonly to be found at the mid-week 
meeting, the majority of them working class people. In this 
church, as elsewhere, the subjects treated are much the same 
as in the Sunday services, and the central feature of the meet- 
ing is a talk by the minister differing from a Sunday sermon 
chiefly in being somewhat more informal and practical in its 
application. Here, too, some prodding is necessary to get the 
people to take an active part in the service, but one cannot listen 
to their earnest “testimonies” or see their eager response to the 
boyish enthusiasm of the pastor without realizing that it is 
something more than an habitual form, more even than the 
friendliness which peculiarly characterizes this church, which 
brings these people together, many of them coming out after 
a nine- to ten-hour day of factory labor. In most churches, 
however, attendance at this “family prayer service” of the 
church is no longer regarded by the majority of members as 
either a privilege or a duty; they simply omit it. 

As children are encouraged to join the church at an early 
age, so attendance at church services is expected of children as 
well as of adults, but special types of services, Sunday School 
and Young People’s Meetings, address themselves especially 



to the young. The former are in Middletown largely attended 
by adults as well, some even substituting Sunday School at- 
tendance for attendance at the preaching services.*^ Sunday 
School consists, in part, of singing, prayer, and occasional 
brief talks at the opening and close, but its central feature is 
the study of a ‘"lesson” in small class groups modeled somewhat 
on those of the secular schools ; opening and closing exercises 
usually occupy thirty to forty minutes and the lesson twenty to 
thirty minutes. In almost all Middletown Sunday School classes 
these lessons are taken exclusively from the Bible. The aims of 
the Sunday Schools were variously stated by the ministers : 
“To make intelligent, well-instructed Christians who have con- 
victions.” “To bring the pupils to Christ and teach them in 
Christ to be real working Christians.” “To develop Christian 
character through Biblical instruction.” “To teach the children 
righteous living.” 

Direction of the Sunday Schools and the actual teaching of 
the classes is entirely in the hands of volunteer workers; none 
of the six largest Protestant churches, which exhibit religious 
training in Middletown in its most developed form,® has a paid 
director of religious education or any paid teachers or adminis- 
trators. One church has a committee on religious education, 
made up of both members and teachers of the Sunday School 
which meets monthly, two others have such a committee which 
according to the pastors “never functions at all,” and the other 
three have no such committee. In each church the superintendent 
of the Sunday School is the person in charge of religious train- 
ing; of the superintendents in these six churches in 1924 one 

^ The ratio of adults and children in Sunday School varies from church 
to church. Fewer adults attend in the more sophisticated churches. In one 
of the largest churches of the city, a favorite among the more up and 
coming workers but also having a cons